Florida School Districts Appealing Mask Mandate Ban Decision


After a federal judge sided with the state of Florida and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) over its rulemaking authority regarding mask mandate ban and quarantine rules for students, the school districts who initially sued the state are filing an appeal.

“The appellate court will be reviewing the decision of the administrative law judge to determine whether he made any errors,” said Jamie Cole, an attorney representing the school districts. “We believe that he made very clear legal errors because he applied the wrong legal standard, and we do believe that based on the record at the hearing and even based on his factual findings the rule should be invalidated.”

The argument Cole made was that “you need to have an immediate danger.”

“Our view is that in order to have an emergency rule, you need to have an immediate danger, which means something sudden or unforeseen had to have happened,” said Cole.

On Tuesday, Leon County Schools (LCS) announced it is withdrawing from the appeals process.

“While we continue to believe in our right to make decisions that are overwhelmingly supported by our community we no longer believe it is prudent for us to pursue a short-term legal remedy to determine where the line is drawn between state rights and the rights of our local school system,” said LCS Superintendent Rocky Hanna to WCTV.  “We will continue to look for other avenues to advocate for home rule and local control in the future.”

Leon County Schools was one of the districts slapped with a fine for violating the mask mandate ban, but now that the district is in compliance with the state’s rule, the state will return the funds that were withheld.

The DOH rule the school districts are challenging says that mask mandates would be banned and that students would no longer have to quarantine if exposed to COVID and remained asymptomatic. The rule was crafted by new Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

“In Florida, we’re going to stay close to the data,” Ladapo said last month. “And the data do not support any clinical benefit for children in schools with mask mandates. The highest quality data find no evidence of benefit, and we’re going to stick with that because that’s what the data show.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips. 





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