A Florida judge has once again overruled Gov. Ron DeSantis’s executive order banning school mask mandates, in the last chapter of the war over mask mandates between DeSantis and school districts in the state.
Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled in favor of school districts who defied DeSantis’s order and kept enforcing the use of masks in the classrooms, despite DeSantis’s threats to withhold funding.
Cooper had previously ruled against DeSantis’s order on August 27, but the governor appealed the decision, which allowed the ban to remain enforceable until today.
The latest ruling, which lifts the ban immediately, allows school to enforce masks following CDC guidelines.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (pictured today) overstepped his authority by banning mask mandates in schools, a judge has ruled
Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruling lifts the ban on school mask mandates
DeSantis’s legal battle with the state’s school districts has triggered confrontations between pro-mask school workers and parents as well as students who are opposed to masks.
On July 30, DeSantis issued an executive order forcing the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Health to allow parents to opt out their children from wearing masks at school, even as COVID-19 infections in the state jumped 50% in that week.
Thirteen Florida school districts, representing more than half of the state’s 2.8 million public school students, kept their mask mandate.
In retaliation, DeSantis stripped funds equal to monthly school board members’ salaries in Alachua and Broward counties.
Three teachers from Broward County School District died from COVID-19, just as Broward County’s School Board voted to defy Gov Ron DeSantis’ order to drop the mask mandate.
Cooper’s ruling will return the funds to those school districts.
Masked children this month at Baldwin Park Elementary School in Orlando
School children wearing face masks arrive on the first day of classes at Baldwin Park Elementary School in Orlando
Cooper said that face mask mandates that follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are ‘reasonable and consistent with the best scientific and medical opinion in this country’ and that DeSantis violated the law when it banned school districts from requiring masks.
The Judge said DeSantis didn’t have the legal authority to ban mask mandates and his order was unconstitutional and could not be enforced.
‘It’s undisputed that in Florida we are in the midst of a COVID pandemic.
‘Based on the evidence I’ve heard, there’s no harm to the state if the stay is set aside,’ Cooper said.
DeSantis said that the state had to protect ‘parents freedom to choose.’
The order noted that ‘children are at ‘low risk of contracting a serious illness due to COVID-19’ and said that ‘forcing’ children to wear masks could ‘inhibit breathing, and adversely affect communications in the classroom and student performance,’ among other things.
DeSantis has described CDC recommendations to wear face masks as ‘the most significant threat to freedom in my lifetime,’ and even accused the health agencies of ‘medical authoritarianism.’
He argued that all ‘all parents have the right to make healthcare decisions for their minor children,’ – such as whether to mask them up.
‘I have (three) young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the masks with the kids; we never have,’ DeSantis shared. ‘I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun.’
The governor’s executive order also said that ‘there is no statistically significant evidence to suggest that counties with mask requirements have feared any better than those without.’
DeSantis was cheered by supporters as he made the pronouncement, and also welcomed parents who are against masks to address the crowd.
‘I think that this decision about whether parents want their kids to have to wear masks all day at school, I think that’s a decision that falls squarely within the concord of this Parents’ Bill of Rights that I signed,’ the governor said.
In Sarasota County, another district that refused to follow DeSantis’ order, hundreds of parents were seen lining up at a chiropractor to collect medical exemption forms for their children.
‘We were in and out, came in, signed a clipboard and handed a sheet,’ parent Paulina Testerman told WJBF-TV of the scene at Twin Palms Chiropractic.
‘Nobody asked to see our children. The forms were pre-signed, there was a stack behind the counter and they were just passed out.’
Chiropractor Dan Busch spoke with the ABC affiliate outside his attorney’s office, saying that he had only provided exemptions to students and parents he met with personally.
‘This is not a political thing. I am not an anti-mask person or an anti-vax person, but I am a pro-freedom, pro-choice person,’ said Busch.
Busch said that any ‘licensed health care physician’ is qualified to provide medical exemptions, including chiropractors.
‘Your dentist could do this, your psychiatrist could do this, your psychologist can do this,’ he said. ‘You were looking at things like respiratory distress, hypoxia, asthma, anxiety, depression – there are a lot of qualifying conditions.’
A protester holds a placard outside an emergency mask mandate meeting of the Brevard County, Florida School Board in Viera on Monday
A masked student raises his hand in class at iPrep Academy on the first day of school in Miami last week. A judge has ruled that Florida school districts may impose mask mandates
Meanwhile, in Sarasota County, where another school mask mandate went into effect on Monday, hundreds of parents were seen lining up at a chiropractor to collect medical exemption forms for their children.
‘We were in and out, came in
Cooper said that while the governor and others have argued that a new Florida law gives parents the ultimate authority to oversee health issues for their children, it also exempts government actions that are needed to protect public health and are reasonable and limited in scope.
He said a school district’s decision to require student masking to prevent the spread of the virus falls within that exemption.
Florida is one of several states where Republican governors have sought to prevent local governments and school districts from mandating masks
DeSantis’ order sparked heated debate and a rebellion from some school districts that argued the rules are necessary to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic
Florida has had a total to 3.36 million cases COVID-19 and 46,973 deaths since the pandemic started
In Florida, 11,546,840 people or 53% of Florida’s population has been fully vaccinated
The judge also noted that two Florida Supreme Court decisions from 1914 and 1939 found that individual rights are limited by their impact on the rights of others.
For example, he said, adults have the right to drink alcohol but not to drive drunk. There is a right to free speech, but not to harass or threaten others or yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, he said.
‘We don’t have that right because exercising the right in that way is harmful or potentially harmful to other people,’ Cooper said. He added that the law ‘is full of examples of rights that are limited (when) the good of others … would be adversely affected by those rights.’
Dr Rosalind Osgood, who heads the Broward County School Board, said she supported Cooper’s first ruling as the area was ‘living out the nightmare of the COVID pandemic, where so many people in our county, including members of our staff and others, are being impacted.’
The three teachers who died in Broward County were identified as Pinewood Elementary teacher and union steward Janice Wright, 48, Dillard Elementary teacher Katina Jones and teaching assistant Yolonda Hudson-Williams, both 49 also of Dillard Elementary.
As Florida’s cases continue to soar, the state reported a seven-day rolling average of 10,162 new cases daily on Tuesday.
This brings the statewide total to 3.36 million cases and 46,973 deaths.
There is now a total of 40,282,910 COVID-19 infections in the country
The death toll for COVID-19 patients in the US is now 650,691