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Florida News

DeSantis Appeals Mask Mandate Order

Students arrive for the first day of school on Aug. 10 at Sessums Elementary School in Hillsborough County, Fla. After thousands of students were put in isolation or quarantine, the district is revisiting its safety protocols, including its mask-optional policy.
Students arrive for the first day of school on Aug. 10 at Sessums Elementary School in Hillsborough County, Fla. After thousands of students were put in isolation or quarantine, the district is revisiting its safety protocols, including its mask-optional policy.

The appeals portion of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ lawsuit seeking to outlaw mask mandates in Florida’s public schools has begun. First stop — is the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee.

In the 41-page motion, Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority in an executive order aimed at preventing districts from requiring students to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the decision is based on his interpretation of the law.

“If you look at my record, it’s not somebody who runs all over the place, ruling against the governor,” said Cooper. “What it is, I think, is a record of somebody who tries to figure out what the law is.”

Attorneys for the governor argue they have a high likelihood of success on appeal. According to a court document, they contend that Cooper “abused its discretion in vacating the automatic stay on Wednesday, and the appellate court should reinstate the stay pending review.” Attorney Michael Abel represents the state.

“Not a single plaintiff has articulated any irreparable harm, beyond a generalized concern for sending their children to the same school in which some parents have exercised their fundamental right to not require their own children to wear masks,” Abel said.

“And I don’t know why the masks have politics around it; let the parents make the best decision for their kids,” said DeSantis. “If you want the masks, do it, if you don’t, don’t. That’s fine.”

At a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. DeSantis said, based on the evidence he’s heard, there's no harm to the state if the stay is set aside. He added that history is on his side as the appeals process moves forward.

“In the trials courts in Tallahassee — state and federal — we typically lose if there’s a political component to it,” the governor said. “But then in the appeals court, we almost always win,” said the governor. “I don’t think the judge will lift the stay, but if it is lifted I am confident that that will be reinstated by the [U.S. 11TH] Circuit [Court of Appeals].”

The lawsuit was filed last month by a group of parents, during a statewide debate, which turned fierce in some places, about whether students should be required to wear masks as the highly contagious Delta variant causes a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.