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Florida can keep punishing schools for mask mandates — for now

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida can continue punishing school districts that mandate face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 — until the appeals court offers a ruling. That comes after the appeals court on Friday re-imposed the stay on a circuit court judge’s earlier ruling.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper on Wednesday lifted an automatic stay of his decision last week that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials exceeded their authority by imposing the blanket ban through executive order and tagging defiant pro-mask local school boards with financial penalties.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, which next gets the case, re-imposed the stay.

“We have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters,” the appeals judges wrote in a one-page decision. “Given the presumption against vacating the automatic stay, the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review.”

DeSantis said this week that he is confident the state will prevail. His position is that parents, not the school districts, should decide if their children wear masks to class.

The matter could ultimately be decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

The state’s education board has promised to withhold funding for 13 school districts that impose mask mandates against the governor’s orders, including those in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The U.S. Department of Education has begun a grant program for school districts that lose money for implementing anti-coronavirus practices such as mandatory masks.


About the Author:

David Selig is the Digital Executive Producer at WPLG, overseeing Local10.com.