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Cooper's Ruling Makes Mask Injunction Official; Appeals, More Lawsuits On The Way

An N95 face mask outside NYU Langone Health hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
An N95 face mask outside NYU Langone Health hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper has filed his ruling, giving a win to parents who sued Governor Ron DeSantis and the Department of Education over an effort to ban mandatory face masks in schools.

The ruling is an extension of Cooper’s verbal order, effectively blocking the state from punishing school districts that have mask mandates.

The DeSantis administration has used the Parents Bill of Rights to justify blocking school districts from passing mandatory mask policies. The governor has said the law grants parents ultimate say in the healthcare decisions of their child. Judge Cooper, in his ruling notes the law DOES NOT stop government entities such as school boards from making healthcare decisions, and that the law requires such decisions to be “reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that the policy is narrowly tailored and not otherwise served by less restrictive means.”

The ruling says the state cannot adopt a blanket mask ban and that such a ban effectively violates the same law used to defend it.

Several parents sued the Governor and Department of Education to allow school boards the ability to make masking decisions. The parents argued unmasked students jeopardize the health of all students—and note that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is more transmissible and that children are more vulnerable. In a statement on twitter, the plaintiff's attorney, Charles Gallagher said, "Our clients are gratified that the Court’s written ruling is now memorized in a written final judgment and hope the Defendants comply. Our review of the written final judgment confirms that it is consistent with Judge Cooper’s oral rulings on Friday."

He adds, "we stand ready to move to vacate any forthcoming appellate stay and vigorously defend the threatened appeal."

Cooper’s written ruling comes as the state is threatening or punishing more than a dozen school districts that have mask mandates. At least two—Leon and Miami Dade-- have hired outside lawyers in the event they have to sue the state to defend their policies.

The DeSantis administration is appealing Cooper’s ruling and there are several more lawsuits over student masking pending in the courts.