JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s confident things will go in favor of the state as he appeals a ruling made by a judge that blocked his ban on school mask mandates.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents last week who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The governor’s order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school.
Cooper said DeSantis’ order “is without legal authority.”
His decision came after a four-day virtual hearing, and after 10 Florida school boards voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask requirements with no parental opt-out. Districts that have done so include Orange, Duval, Alachua, Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Palm Beach, Indian River and Leon Counties.
The governor’s office said Friday that Cooper’s decision wasn’t based on the law and the state will appeal it.
On Monday, during a news conference in Jacksonville, the governor stood by his decision to appeal, saying the judge’s ruling is “obviously problematic.”
DeSantis said the issue is not with the mask requirements but rather that some districts aren’t giving parents the option to opt out if they don’t feel their child should be wearing a mask at school.
He said parents would be upset if their right to have their child wear a mask at school was taken away.
“I thought about this and then thought about what if the reverse happened? What if a district banned anyone from wearing masks. I’ll bet you you have parents sue under the Parents Bill of Rights, say, ‘Hey, wait a minute I think this is in the best interest of my child to go to school,’ to where you know what? I think that they would win on that and so it’ll be appealed. We’ll end up getting it back,” the governor said.
According to myfloridahouse.gov, the Parents’ Bill of Rights provides parental rights relating to a minor child’s education, upbringing and health care. It also provides school district, health care practitioners, hospital requirements and specified penalties.
The 10 districts that defied DeSantis’ order prior to the ruling represent slightly more than half of the 2.8 million Florida public school students enrolled this year.
Cooper’s ruling will not go into effect until it is put into writing, which the judge asked the parents’ lawyers to complete by Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.