Ron DeSantis appeals ruling he exceeded authority with ban on mask mandates in school

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    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday appealed a judge’s ruling that said he had exceeded his authority in banning coronavirus mask mandates in schools. 

    Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper last week called DeSantis’ executive order unconstitutional and said the governor cannot enforce it.

    Cooper’s ruling was automatically stayed by Thursday’s appeal. 

    The governor’s order allowed parents to decide if they want their kids to wear masks to school rather than have local school districts make the decision. The lawsuit was brought by a group of parents in favor of school mask mandates. 

    DeSantis this week said he believes the state will win in the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee because of a new state law, the Parents Bill of Rights, which he said gives parents the final authority on their children’s health. 

    “We’ll end up getting it back,” the governor told reporters earlier this week about his plan to appeal. “Obviously [Cooper’s ruling], it’s problematic.”

    FLORIDA JUDGE REJECTS DESANTIS’ BAN ON MASK MANDATES IN SCHOOLS 

    DeSantis said he wants to stand with parents regarding their ability to decide what’s best for their children. 

    “We think it’s important that they are given the ability to opt out” of wearing a mask, DeSantis said. 

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Aug. 18, 2021. (Associated Press) 

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Aug. 18, 2021. (Associated Press) 

    Cooper addressed the new law in his ruling, saying government actions necessary to protect public health are exempted from it to include a school district’s right to require student masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

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

    School boards in 13 districts in the state had voted to defy the order, choosing to require masks because of the virus resurgence, and they faced possibly having their salaries withheld. The Biden administration had promised federal funds for any district that lost money for requiring masks. 

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    “It’s not surprising that Judge Cooper would rule against parents’ rights and their ability to make the best educational and medical decisions for their family, but instead rule in favor of elected politicians,” DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said in a statement over last week’s ruling. “This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts — frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented.”

    The delta variant caused the virus to resurge in the state over the summer with record highs for new cases. 

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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