Florida Judge Strikes Down School Mask Mandate Ban—Again—Stopping State From Punishing Schools

Florida schools can impose mask orders while the litigation against the state's ban on school mask orders plays out. A judge ruled Wednesday that the state cannot punish schools that have adopted mask orders again after the state appealed a ruling removing it from effect.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, May 6, 2020, Miami Gardens, Florida Getty Images

The Key Facts

John Cooper, Leon County Circuit Judge, ruled in favor the parents of Florida who filed the lawsuit against state officials. They asked for a stay to keep the school mask ban in place. Cooper had issued a permanent injunction to stop Florida's school mask mandate ban. This ban prohibits districts from imposing mandatory measures unless parents let their children opt out. Cooper claimed that state officials had exceeded their authority and the ban did not conform with state law. However, the state appealed the decision, which temporarily blocked the ruling while the litigation was going on. The automatic stay allowed the state to move forward with plans for withholding funding from Florida districts that had imposed mask mandates. Parents who brought the suit argued that the stay should be revoked because of the potential irreparable harm that the ban could cause to Covid-19 transmission in schools. However, the state countered that this argument was unhelpful, irresponsible, and should continue in place. Cooper stated Wednesday that he would not allow the ban to be lifted because he didn't believe the state would suffer any harm if it was banned. However, unvaccinated children are at risk from the delta variant. Masking is the only way they can protect themselves. According to the judge, he believes the case will survive appeal due to the Florida Parents Bill of Rights. This law was cited by the state as justifying their bans. It states that school districts have the right to impose policies that violate parents rights provided they are reasonable and specific.

Important Quote

Cooper stated Wednesday that he would immediately take effect his order to strike down the stay in this case.

Big Number

Minimum 12. At least 12. The state withheld funding from the first two counties that imposed mask mandates equal to the salaries of their school board members, and they have said they will continue withholding funds on a monthly base. The state has warned that similar consequences could befall other school districts who followed their example, but districts have stated they will continue to enforce their mandates despite any possible punishments. Even after Cooper's initial ruling, the Florida Department of Education is moving forward with these consequences. Jared Ochs, director of communications at FDOE, told Forbes last week that the state will continue withholding funding until a judge orders otherwise.

Important Background

Florida is one 10 state that has enacted a ban on school mask mandates. However, not all of them are currently in force. Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas have all temporarily suspended mask mandate bans. However, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state's prohibition and overturned a school district mask mandate. The state's massive Covid-19 increase has made Florida's ban particularly controversial. This has led to thousands of positive cases among children, as well as the deaths of many teachers in Florida and forced some schools to close temporarily for in-person learning. Despite the controversy and outbreak, the state has maintained its ban on school-mask mandates. Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis stated that he believes the state will have good grounds to appeal Cooper's initial ruling, and that the ban would ultimately be upheld.

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Florida's Mask Mandat Ban is Now Officially Blocked, But The State Will Still Strike At Schools (Forbes).

Florida Schools Maintain Mask Mandates Despite State Vows to Punish Them (Forbes).

Florida School Mask Ban Ban Struck Down in Court (Forbes).

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