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Parents Ask Florida Supreme Court To Take Up Mask Lawsuit

Florida Supreme Court building in front of blue sky
Nick Evans
WFSU Public Media

Parents suing to overturn Gov. Ron DeSantis’s effort to ban school mask mandates are asking Florida’s top court to take up the case. The request to move the case to the Florida Supreme Court came hours after an appeals court reinstated a stay on a ruling that allowed districts to keep their mandates in place.

In their request for a Florida Supreme Court hearing, attorneys for the parents write that an immediate resolution to the case is needed because the school year is already underway and that the issue is of "great public importance" because the Delta variant is more transmissible, Florida is a COVID-19 hot spot, and children are now more vulnerable to the virus.

The request came hours after an appellate court reinstated a stay on a lower court ruling that said the Governor’s executive order attempting to block school mask mandates was a step too far. In his ruling, Circuit Judge John Cooper noted the state can’t punish districts for mandating masks without first giving them an opportunity to prove that those policies are reasonable. Cooper also cited the Parents Bill of Rights—the same law the administration has used to justify its ban on mask mandates—and noted the law allows for governmental entities to impose upon parental rights if they can show there is a compelling state interest.

The appellate court cited concerns over standing and jurisdiction in its decision to lift the stay. The move effectively paved the way for the state to keep punishing defiant districts with financial penalties.

There are currently more than a dozen districts with mask mandates, and others are considering defying the governor and instituting their own mask requirements.

There are also several lawsuits pending in federal and administrative law court over the Governor's executive order.

The federal government is offering a grant program to supplement funding to districts that are hit with financial fines for requiring masks. The U.S. Department of Education also announced that its investigating several states trying to ban school masks—suggesting such bans violate the rights of children with disabilities.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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