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Florida News

Judge: School Mask Mandates A Go For Now

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.

Just hours after a Leon County judge allowed school districts to continue student mask requirements, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has filed an emergency motion asking an appeals court to reinstate a stay.

The 41-page motion seeks to put on hold a September 2 ruling that said DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority in an executive order aimed at preventing districts from requiring students to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Circuit Judge John Cooper on Wednesday went further by lifting an automatic stay that had been triggered when the DeSantis administration appealed the ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

The motion filed Wednesday night is requesting the Tallahassee-based appeals court to reimpose the stay while the underlying battle moves forward.

Attorney Michael Abel spoke for the state during the hearing in which Cooper vacated the automatic stay.

“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.

As he vacated the stay, Judge Cooper said his decision in the mask lawsuit 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.”

A group of parents filed the lawsuit last month, amid a fierce debate across the state about whether students should be required to wear masks as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has caused a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.