DeSantis filed an appeal Thursday to place a hold on a ruling by a Leon County circuit judge, who declared in a written judgment that the governor did not have the constitutional authority to ban mask mandates.
DeSantis had cited Florida’s Parents’ Bill of Rights law — controversial legislation implemented this year that grants parents rights to make decisions about their children’s education, upbringing, and health care — to justify an executive order in July banning school mask mandates in the state. But Circuit Judge John C. Cooper said last Friday that any order from the governor or a state agency that “bans under all circumstances a face mask mandate for school children without a parental opt out does not meet constitutional muster.” A mask mandate ban, the judge said, should be exempted from the Parents’ Bill of Rights because the law allows for exclusions in cases of limited government actions designed to protect public health.
DeSantis’s filing on Thursday stated that it should trigger an “automatic stay pending review” of Cooper’s decision, but attorneys representing parents who support mask mandates filed an emergency notice to vacate the stay.
So far thirteen Florida school districts have put into effect mask mandates without a parental opt-out, in defiance of DeSantis’s executive order. The governor and state education officials have threatened two school boards in Broward and Alachua counties, saying they would withhold school board members’ salaries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended “universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
“Ultimately, we are just trying to stand with the parents,” DeSantis said. “We think it’s important that they are given the ability to opt out.”
The governor additionally threatened financial punishment against another school district, Brevard County, on Thursday after that district made the decision to require masks for 30 days. But school board member Jennifer Jenkins, who supported the mask mandate, was unintimidated.
“We are literally dying and we are making the right choice across the state and especially here in Brevard,” Jenkins said, telling Orlando’s News 6 that so far this school year, four district employees have died after contracting the virus and two students are currently in intensive care with Covid-19.
DeSantis isn’t only fighting for kids to spread the virus. He has also signed a bill implementing $5,000 fines for any business requiring customers or visitors to prove their vaccination status, which will go into effect on September 16. Never mind that Florida has been experiencing unprecedented levels of positive Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, and August was officially the deadliest month for the virus in the state since the pandemic began.