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School Mask Mandate Ban Blocked Once Again

September 8th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

The fight over school masking is heating up in the courts with a Judge lifting the automatic stay on his ruling that blocked the state from enforcing its mandate ban.

The order is now back in effect, but the mandate ban could soon be back in force.

Judge John Cooper said allowing his ruling to take effect wouldn’t cause any substantial harm to the state, but he said continuing to allow the state to ban mask mandates in schools could harm students and districts.

“We have a variant that’s more infectious and more dangerous to children than the one we had last year,” said Cooper.

Cooper said his ruling came down to ensuring the state followed the parents bill of rights, the same statute used to justify the mandate ban in the first place.

The law allows government bodies to override the rights of parents if a policy is narrowly tailored, serves a compelling state interest and isn’t served by less restrictive means.

“The bottom line is, this case is about enforcing the laws the Legislature passed,” said Cooper.

Cooper also pointed out his ruling allows the state to challenge local mask policies, so long as districts are provided due process.

“To permit the local school boards to meet their burden under the statute,” said Cooper.

However, Cooper’s ruling might have a short shelf life.

“It’s in the hands of the First District Court of Appeal,” said Cooper.

Last year in the school reopening case, the Appellate Court overruled a different judge’s decision to lift an automatic stay within 24 hours.

There was more than one challenge to the state’s mask mandate ban heard Wednesday though.

Just a few hours after Cooper adjourned his hearing, a Federal Judge in Miami heard arguments in a case alleging the mandate ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A ruling in that case is expected soon.

We reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment on the two cases, but didn’t hear back in time for this story.

Alachua, Broward and Orange County School Districts have started a new battle in administrative court, filing a challenge to the Department of Health rule requiring parental opt-outs from mask mandates.

Miami-Dade Schools also filed a similar challenge.

Neither case has been scheduled for a hearing yet.

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