DeSantis Wins Appeal Reinstating School Mask Mandate Prohibition

On Friday, a State of Florida appeals court ruled in favor of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in Florida public schools. The decision was issued by the Florida First District Court of Appeals and reverses a ruling by a district court judge who previously ruled that the governor did not have authority to prohibit school districts from mandating mask-wearing by students, teachers, and staff inside school facilities.

DeSantis wrote on Twitter that he was not surprised that the court “restored the right of parents” to make the best decisions for their children. He added that he will “continue to fight for parents’ rights.”

Florida has been among the most notable of U.S. states where governors have moved to prevent school boards or local governments from requiring masks in schools. Those governors have argued that masking rules infringe on the personal liberty of students and employees.

The controversy originated in July when DeSantis issued an executive order barring mask mandates for students in all of the state’s public schools. At that time, the governor said that decision must be left up to parents alone.

More than a dozen school districts defied the DeSantis order and imposed mandates in defiance of the order. The state Department of Education responded by beginning withholding funding from the communities in violation of the order.

In Leon County Circuit Court, a group of parents filed a lawsuit against the governor. On August 27, Judge John Cooper imposed an injunction in the case, preventing DeSantis from carrying out his executive order. The court agreed to stay in enforcement of his order until the state court of appeals could rule.

In ruling in favor of DeSantis, the court of appeals said that “serious doubts” exist as to several legal issues in the case, including the parents’ standing to sue and jurisdiction to hear the case. An attorney for the parents has already stated that the plaintiffs will be seeking a further appeal with the Florida Supreme Court.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced the launch of a federal inquiry into whether the governor’s directive jeopardizes the needs of impaired pupils. The Education Department has previously announced similar questions regarding Tennessee, South Carolina, Utah, Iowa, and Oklahoma rules.