Judge: Florida schools may impose mask warrants

A Florida court on Friday rejected an effort by Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials to prevent mask warrants in schools during t...

A Florida court on Friday rejected an effort by Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials to prevent mask warrants in schools during the state’s worst Covid-19 outbreak to date.

Judge John C. Cooper of the State’s Second Judicial Circuit said Florida school districts could impose strict mask warrants on students to curb the spread of the coronavirus, defeating Governor DeSantis, whose administration has vehemently insisted on leaving the decisions to hide from the parents of the children.

In a lengthy court ruling, Justice Cooper sided with parents of students in various school districts who had argued that the Florida Constitution required schoolchildren to be protected and that masks would help achieve that in the event pandemic. Florida had previously said it would appeal any unfavorable decision to a more conservative appeals court.

Lawyers for Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, and the Florida Department of Education countered that a “parent’s bill of rights” passed by state lawmakers earlier this year gave parents the right to decide whether their child had to wear a mask. Justice Cooper disagreed, saying the new law “does not prohibit mask warrants” and in fact gives school districts the discretion to impose them.

“I am a parent – the rights of parents are very important,” Justice Cooper said. “But they are not without reasonable limitation, based on safety, reasonableness and compelling state need.”

The decision, delivered in nearly two hours on Friday, came after a high-profile trial was held via Zoom over the course of four days this week. At one point, more than 2,000 people watched Judge Cooper render his ruling live on YouTube.

Justice Cooper granted an injunction against the Department of Education – but not the governor – preventing him from punishing local school boards. Florida had threatened to suspend funding for two school districts, Alachua and Broward, who were the first to impose strict mask mandates, up to the monthly salaries of school board members.

Other Republican governors who have banned school mask terms, including Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona, also face legal challenges.

Florida is living your worst moment of the pandemic after a brutal summer wave fueled by the Delta variant that left more people testing positive, hospitalized and deceased from the virus than ever before. More children in the state are hospitalized with Covid-19 than at any other point. This week in Orange County, where Orlando is located, children between the ages of 5 and 14 accounted for about 20% of new cases of the virus.

Classes have started in recent weeks, prompting 10 of the state’s 67 school districts, covering about half of the state’s 2.8 million students, to challenge the state and demand masks with limited medical exemptions. Other districts have made the masks voluntary or allowed parents to opt out for any reason.

Florida has allowed parents to apply for vouchers for private schools if they consider mask warrants to be “harassment” of their children.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Judge: Florida schools may impose mask warrants
Judge: Florida schools may impose mask warrants
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