Florida governor appeals ruling on masks in schools

Florida governor appeals ruling on masks in schools



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has appealed a judge's ruling that the governor exceeded his authority by ordering school boards not to impose strict mask requirements on students to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor's lawyers took their case Thursday to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. DeSantis wants the appeals court to reverse last week's decision by Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper, which essentially gave Florida's 67 school boards the power to impose a student mask mandate without parental consent. Cooper's ruling was automatically stayed by the appeal.

DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference earlier this week that he is confident the state will win on appeal by linking the mask mandate order to the Parents Bill of Rights law. That law, the governor said, reserves for parents the authority to oversee their children's education and health.

Cooper found, however, that the Bill of Rights law exempts government actions that are needed to protect public health and are reasonable and limited in scope — such as masking students to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

“It doesn’t require that a mask mandate must include a parental opt-out at all,” Cooper said in an oral ruling Friday.

DeSantis and state education officials have threatened to impose financial penalties on school boards that adopt a mask requirement without a provision allowing parents to opt out.

So far, they have moved to withhold salaries for school board members in Alachua and Broward counties. Those are two of the 13 school boards representing over half of Florida's 2.8 million students that have voted for mask mandates in defiance of the governor's order.

“Ultimately, we are just trying to stand with the parents,”...

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