Florida’s On-Again, Off-Again Ban On School Mask Mandates Is Back In Force


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Students, some wearing protective masks, arrive for the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview, Fla.

Chris O’Meara/AP


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Chris O’Meara/AP


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DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw said in a tweet that the decision means «the rule requiring ALL Florida school districts to protect parents’ rights to make choices about masking kids is BACK in effect!»

DeSantis has argued that the new Parents Bill of Rights law reserves solely for parents the authority to determine whether their children should wear a mask to school. School districts with mandatory mask rules allow an opt-out only for medical reasons, not parental discretion.

Charles Gallagher, attorney for parents challenging the DeSantis ban, said he is «disappointed» by the appeals court decision.

«With a stay in place, students, parents and teachers are back in harm’s way,» Gallagher said in a tweet.

The back-and-forth legal battles stem from a lawsuit filed by parents represented by Gallagher and other lawyers contending that DeSantis does not have authority to order local school boards to ban mask mandates.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed in an Aug. 27 order, then on Wednesday lifted a stay that had blocked his ruling from taking effect. The appeals court now has put that stay back in place as the governor seeks a ruling making his mask mandate ban permanent.


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The appeals judges noted that a stay is presumed when a public officer or agency seeks appellate review of a judicial order.

«We have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters,» the appeals judges wrote in a one-page decision. «Given the presumption against vacating the automatic stay, the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review.»

In his previous order, Cooper said the overwhelming evidence is that wearing masks provides some protection for children in crowded school settings, particularly those under 12 who are not currently eligible for vaccination. The court battle comes as Florida copes with the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus that has overrun hospitals across the state.

On the Parents Bill of Rights, Cooper said his previous order follows the law that reserves health and education decisions regarding children to parents unless a government entity such as a school board can show their broader action is reasonable and narrowly tailored to the issue at hand.

The next stage of the legal fight will test whether Cooper’s conclusions are correct.

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