DeSantis vows to keep fighting school mask lawsuit if judge sides with parents

Hearing underway this week

ORLANDO, Fla. – Amid closing arguments of a lawsuit challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order aimed at preventing local school boards from imposing student mask mandates, the governor vowed Thursday he would continue to fight should they lose the lawsuit.

The executive order reinforced a parent’s right to choose whether their child wears a mask in school and state officials have threatened to withhold funding for school board salaries if a district doesn’t comply. A group of parents filed the lawsuit challenging DeSantis’ July 30 order, alleging that it violates a section of the state Constitution that requires providing a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high-quality system” of public schools.

Despite that, more than half of Florida’s students are now required to wear face masks as more districts enact mandates. The governor on Wednesday said “there will be consequences” for school districts that have enacted mask mandates despite his executive order.

“Those school districts are violating state law and they are overriding parents’ judgment on this,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “If these entities are going to violate state law and takeaway parents’ rights, obviously the way it works, there are consequences for that and there will continue to be more.”

During a news conference Thursday in Orlando, DeSantis said if he loses the lawsuit, he would appeal.

“If we win in ... trial court I’m sure it’ll be appealed on the other side, too. And so that’s good, I mean, I think you know, we obviously need to have this stuff crystallize,” he said. “We feel that the legislature really made a big statement with their parental Bill of Rights and that’s an important piece of legislation.”

As of Wednesday, 10 Florida counties have passed mandates that require a note from a doctor, rather than a note from parents or guardians, to opt-out — which the governor’s office says violates the state’s executive order. The governor threatened the districts Wednesday that there would be “consequences for that and there will continue to be more.”

DeSantis said during Thursday’s news conference there would be an announcement from the board of education that will “happen very soon” regarding the districts, including Orange County that enacted a mask mandate for 60 days this week.

“Obviously, there may be certain enforcement mechanisms that like the state would do and maybe in this case with penalties, the penalties will be applied to the politicians who violated the law, there’ll be no penalties applied to school children, or teachers or any of that,” he said.

A ruling for the school mask lawsuit is expected Friday.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.