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Florida’s ban on school mask mandate may be enforced for now, court rules

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Florida’s ban on school mask mandate may be enforced for now, court rules

An appeals court ruled Friday, Florida’s ban on school mask mandates may remain in force while a legal challenge makes its way through the courts. It reverses a lower court judge’s decision that had stayed the ban and allowed the state’s largest school districts to wear face coverings amid the deadly coronavirus surge.

Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and other state officials by the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee means the Florida Department of Education can continue to punish local school officials who enforce the mask mandate without an opt-out provision. We do. For the parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“In trial courts in Tallahassee, state and federal, we usually lose, if there is a political component to it, but then in appeals court, we almost always win,” Mr. DeSantis said on Wednesday.

The state has begun withholding funds equal to the monthly salaries of school board members from two districts – Alachua in Gainesville and Broward in Fort Lauderdale – which were the first to impose strict mask mandates. Overall, 13 of Florida’s 67 districts have implemented similar mandates, defying the state.

The Biden administration has promised to restore funding to any districts that have been penalized for implementing CDC mitigation recommendations, such as universal masking. The federal Department of Education has already notified districts that they can use federal relief funds to fill gaps, and on Thursday announced a new grant program designed to make districts whole if financially penalized. will provide additional funds for

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In a brief ruling, three judges from the more conservative appellate court wrote on Friday that they had “serious doubts” about basic matters in the case, including whether the parent who filed the initial lawsuit had the right to do so. legal status or not.

“These doubts significantly undermine the prospect of the appellants’ eventual success in this appeal,” he wrote.

Late last month, after a four-day trial, Judge John C. Cooper of the state’s Second Judicial Circuit ruled in favor of parents, holding that the masked mandate of school districts was narrow, reasonable and a compelling state. It was necessary to protect the interest – namely the safety of students and staff. The state sought an immediate stay or stay of the decision pending its appeal.

On Wednesday, Judge Cooper struck down the stay, allowing the mask mandate to remain in place until Friday’s appellate court ruling.

Erica L. Green contributed reporting.

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