FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A Florida judge has made another ruling in favor of mask mandates by school boards.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled last month that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority when he issued an executive order banning school districts from implementing mask mandates.
The governor has since appealed that ruling.
However, Cooper, on Wednesday, lifted an automatic stay that would have allowed the ban to go into effect while the case is appealed at a higher level.
In other words, school districts will be allowed to implement mask mandates while the state goes through the appeals process.
Cooper said that masks in schools, right now, is the safest bet.
“That we are in a pandemic, the evidence shows that there is no dispute about that. We have a variant that’s more infectious and dangerous to children than the one we had last year,” Cooper said.
And that’s part of the reason a circuit judge ruled Wednesday that governor Ron Desantis cannot ban mask mandates in school.
Cooper said, in this case, Florida law gives school districts the power to require masks.
“They have to be reasonable and rational. They have to have a basis to report a legitimate state interest and have to be narrowly drafted, etc. That is an expressed grant from the legislature of the power to do that.”
This latest ruling said the governor can’t punish districts for mandating masks. Those penalties had included docking school board pay, but the district said those paychecks actually haven’t stopped.
They also expect the court cases to continue.
“We know that it’s temporary, so where we are now is we will go back and forth. The judge will do something, the governor will file an appeal, and it will go back and forth.”
The governor said he’s confident an upcoming appeal will go his way:
“We typically lose if there’s a political component to it, but then in appeals courts, we almost always win,” DeSantis said.
“This makes a difference for us here in Broward County Public Schools,” said Broward Schools Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright. “This is helping us to mitigate COVID-19 and what is occurring in our schools.
Since the first day of school, BCPS has reported 637 students and 279 employees testing positive for COVID-19.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools has reported 210 students and 83 employees testing positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said 13 employees, including four teachers, have died from the virus in the past month.
“Two of them were institutional members of their faculty and staff, 30 plus years,” she said. “People referred to them as ‘Mom.’ You know, it’s honestly very tragic and heartbreaking. These were pillars of the community.”
Mask wearing isn’t the only issue between the state and the Broward County School Board.
The feds approved millions for school boards in COVID relief dollars, and the interim superintendent said they still don’t have the money.
“It was intended for those dollars to have been released this past March,” Cartwright said. “We don’t have them. Where are they?”
The judge made a statement while he issued the ruling that in the pandemic, these are certainly not normal circumstances.
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