Florida School Mask Mandate Fight Heading to Appeals Court

Back to School


After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won a temporary ruling last month, the parents suing the state of Florida over its mask mandate ban filed a notice in 11th Circuit Court of Appeal to overturn the previous decision.

The attorneys said DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates violates the Americans with Disabilities Act which is designed to protect students with disabilities who are more susceptible to illness or death, specifically to COVID.

“Defendants have unlawfully discriminated against plaintiffs by refusing to allow local school districts the prerogative to allow masks and other common-sense precautions, as reasonable accommodations, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that are necessary for disabled children to enjoy the same school services as their classmates,” the plaintiffs argued. “The governor’s order adopts a policy, enforced by the Florida Department of Education against local school districts, that subjects qualified disabled children to discrimination on the basis of their disability in violation of the ADA” and a federal law known as the Rehabilitation Act.

This filing is just the next step in a months-long, back-and-forth battle between the DeSantis administration and the parents seeking to have mask mandates put back in place.

Last month, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper issued a stay on DeSantis’ executive order saying rights can be limited if others’ rights are impacted. Attorneys for DeSantis subsequently filed an appeal to Cooper’s ruling, citing the recently signed Parental Bill of Rights legislation.

“According to its plain terms, the Parents’ Bill of Rights limits governmental authority and protects the inherent rights of parents,” the motion said. “Thus, the governor could not possibly have violated the Parents’ Bill of Rights by protecting parents’ rights. Most assuredly, the Parents’ Bill of Rights does not grant any authority to local school districts that did not previously exist.”

In the brief filed by DeSantis’ attorneys on Saturday, they said Cooper’s ruling should be overturned and the case should be dismissed.

“Policy decisions are left to the executive and legislative branches, and any attempt by any court to weigh-in on those decisions would be improper,” the brief said. “The propriety of any of these policies — including whether masks should be mandated in schools — are decisions reserved for the legislative and executive branches. Ultimately, appellees (the parents) did not seek judicial determinations — they sought policy determinations.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Back to School 2020” by Jill Carlson. CC BY 2.0.





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