Case against mask mandate ban will be expedited

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 5:58 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The First District Court of Appeal agreed to hear a case brought by parents against the state’s school mask mandate ban on an expedited basis Thursday.

The court has also given more insight into its decision to block an initial ruling that went in parents’ favor.

Judge John Cooper ruled back in August the state’s school mask mandate ban violated the Parents Bill of Rights because it didn’t allow school districts the ability to justify their policies.

“To show that their policy is reasonable and meets the requirements of the law,” said Cooper in the August hearing.

The First DCA quickly blocked Cooper’s ruling.

In a new order it has explained why.

The court said Cooper was wrong because parents never alleged the mandate ban violated the Parents Bill of Rights, but more importantly, the court suggested parents likely never had standing to sue in the first place.

“A school is not just a school board. A school is the sum of its parts and that sum of its parts have those rights to safe schools,” said Charles Gallagher, an attorney representing the parents suing the state.

Gallagher argued parents do have a standing to sue because they are directly impacted by the mask mandate ban.

“Florida law does not require that a child die from COVID to be a party plaintiff,” said Gallagher.

The issue of standing was also at the heart of the First DCA’s ruling against the teachers union in the school reopening case last year.

In a statement the Governor’s Office called the court’s order a win for the Governor and parents.

“Today’s preliminary ruling shows that the Plaintiffs have little chance of saving the trial court’s ruling, so this is a win for Governor DeSantis and parents’ rights in Florida!” said the Governor’s Press Secretary, Christina Pushaw.

But the parents’ attorney said the case is far from over, and the ultimate outcome will have lasting impacts.

“This is a matter that will allow schools and the government to have some finality relative to how they will go forward the next time this happens and sadly, everyone in the know thinks there will be a next time,” said Gallagher.

Even though the case has been expedited, the parents’ attorney said a final ruling likely won’t come until late December at the earliest.

Also ongoing is an administrative challenge to the state’s mask mandate ban brought by six school districts. A ruling in that case is expected by November 5th.