Judge says Gov. DeSantis overstepped authority in banning school mask mandates, governor appeals

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – Judge John Cooper has issued his written order in the Florida school mask lawsuit trial.

He writes the Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education has been “ordered not to violate the Parents’ Bill of Rights by taking action to effect a blanket ban on face mask mandates by local school boards”

The written order formalizes Cooper’s findings from Friday, when he ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Department of Education exceeded their authority in banning local school districts from requiring students to wear masks in schools.

“The actions of the defendants do not pass constitutional muster, because they seek to deprive the school boards in advance, of their rights,” Cooper said on Friday. “The law does not require the school board to get permission in advance, and only provides that the school board be able to be challenged on its reasonableness.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on July 30, using a new state law that creates a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” to effectively ban mask mandates by local school districts. The order directs Florida’s departments of health and education to execute rules ensuring safety protocols for COVID-19 “do not violate parents’ right under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children.”

But Judge Cooper said that law, when read in its entirety, specifically allows school districts to enact mask mandates.

“It doesn’t ban mask mandates at all,” said Cooper. “It doesn’t say they must include a parent opt-out at all. The law expressly permits school boards to adopt policies regarding the health care of students even if a parent disagrees with that policy.”

Attorneys for Gov. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran have filed a Notice of Appeal.

The state’s appeal puts an automatic hold on Judge Cooper’s ruling.

“This “stay” means the Education defendants may resume enforcement of the Health Department rule, with the caveat that enforcement must cease if the stay is lifted,” Chancellor of Public Schools Jacob Oliva said in a message to the Florida superintendents.

Attorneys for the families who sued Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education have filed a motion asking the judge to vacate the automatic stay, Attorney Charles Gallagher tells 8 On Your Side.

DeSantis and state education officials have threatened school districts with financial penalties if school boards adopt mask requirements without a parental opt-out provision.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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