Florida’s DeSantis Must Face Suit Over School Mask Rule Ban

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A judge denied a request by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to throw out a lawsuit challenging his ban on mask mandates in schools, setting up a clash next week that could see the court block his executive order.

Parents who claim the ban is putting their children at risk just as the delta variant of the coronavirus is ravaging the state can proceed with their suit to block the governor’s action, Judge John C. Cooper ruled Thursday after a hearing in Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee.

Cooper said he will hold a hearing over two to three days starting Monday, with testimony from health experts and parents on both sides before ruling on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction against DeSantis.

“These parents and children -- they have a right to have their case heard in court,” Cooper said, adding that parents of children who are too young to be vaccinated have a particular right to present their evidence.

The governor’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

‘Science-Based Decisions’

“With trial in the case starting Monday we are now closer to a resolution that keeps the school-going public safe with school boards positioned to make science-based decisions without fear of financial penalties,” said Charles Gallagher, a lawyer for the parents.

DeSantis, a Republican seen as a possible successor to former President Donald Trump, says parents must be allowed to opt out of mask rules in schools for any reason, while public health officials have said mask mandates are less effective when they aren’t mandatory.

Concerned parents are also fighting the governor’s executive order in a related federal court case. Similar clashes are underway in Texas and Oklahoma.

At one point during the hearing, Cooper noted that parents don’t have the ability to opt out of Florida’s requirement that public school students must be vaccinated against polio and measles.

“Face masks seem a lot less intrusive than having a needle stuck in your arm with a vaccine in it,” the judge said.

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