Judge Rules Against DeSantis, Says Florida Schools Can Impose Mask Mandates

Students with face masks go upstairs to classroom. Photo by Ina Fassbender. AFP. Getty Images.

Melanie Wilcox Contributor
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A judge ruled in Florida on Friday that school districts can require students to wear masks.

At least 10 districts—including those in many of Florida’s largest cities—have been challenging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rules that prohibit students being forced to wear masks in public schools. Several pro-mask parents filed the lawsuit at the beginning of August, WPTV reported.

Leon Circuit Court Judge John Cooper heard three days of testimony from parents, physicians, education officials, and attorneys who provided COVID-19 data and research for him to review, according to WPTV. They offered closing arguments Thursday in front of the judge.

Attorney Craig Whisenhunt told the judge that DeSantis surpassed his power by issuing an illegal order requiring parental opt outs, WPTV reported.

“We’re asking you to direct Commissioner [Richard] Corcoran and the Department of Education to cease and desist the enforcement of the unconstitutional order that they are currently beating school districts down with to force compliance in unsafe environments,” Whisenhunt said, according to WPTV.

Cooper acknowledged that there are “clear medical opt-out circumstances, according to WESH.

“The delta variant represents a higher risk to children than the previous form,” he said. “We had a less dangerous form of the virus last year. As the facts change on the ground, the need for different measures changes.”

DeSantis made an announcement July 30 regarding a new executive order that bans mask mandates in schools and gives parents the choice to choose as to whether or not their child wears a mask in a classroom. His announcement challenged the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that all students in grades K-12 wear masks even if fully vaccinated. DeSantis said the recommendation shows “a callous disregard for the physical, emotional, and academic well-being of our children.” (RELATED: Why Ron DeSantis Is The Future Of The Republican Party)

Florida’s Board of Education also approved an emergency measure Aug. 6 that would give parents vouchers to transfer their children out of schools that impose mandates. A parent can transfer their child if they have been “subjected to harassment or other qualifying adverse, intimidating treatment, according to the emergency rule announcement.