A Leon County Circuit Judge has refused to dismiss a case regarding a legal challenge to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban. DeSantis signed the executive order earlier this month, and despite threats of funding and salary withholding from the Florida Board of Education (BOE), multiple school districts have defied the order and implemented mandatory mask requirements.
With the move, lawsuits would be able to proceed by attorneys representing parents of students suing DeSantis, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education, and the BOE.
Judge John Cooper, who made the decision, said the attorneys for the parents “sufficiently” proved the parents had good standing to bring forward a case. Cooper specifically cited the age restrictions on COVID vaccines, preventing children 12 and under from receiving the vaccine, and the claim the delta variant adds risks to the younger age group at a heightened rate.
“If you’re not vaccinated, and you are in a class that can catch it — which the allegation is that this COVID variant includes children — then without masking, distancing, other things, you’re deprived of an ability to protect yourself against COVID infection, in particular for younger, unvaccinated children,” Cooper said.
Critics of DeSantis have said the move by DeSantis and the state is “executive overreach.” DeSantis has consistently maintained the decision to ban mask mandates was to allow parents the right to decide if they want their children wearing masks.
Attorneys representing the state and DeSantis have said the state government took health risks associated with COVID and the delta variant into consideration when crafting the executive order.
“The risk factors, particularly when it comes to the governor’s executive order, and when it comes to the Department of Health’s regulation, have been assessed,” said Michael Abel, the attorney representing the state. “And determinations have been made that balance, in the view of the executive branch, safety and health.”
In response to the possible federal intervention, DeSantis took another jab at Biden for picking a fight with him over masks in school when Biden has bigger things of importance to deal with.
“You have all the stuff going on with Afghanistan – obviously all the stuff at the southern border … one of the biggest border disasters in the history of our country, inflation, gas prices and what does he do?” DeSantis said. “He is obsessed with having the government force kindergartners to wear masks all day in school.”
DeSantis said he is not supportive of the federal government coming in and deciding to “overrule” the wishes of Florida’s parents.
“In Florida,” DeSantis said, “we believe that that’s the parents’ decision. Joe Biden thinks the federal government should come in and overrule the parents and force these young kids to wear these masks.”
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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.
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “our school” by woodlywonderworks. CC BY 2.0.