A group of parents in Tampa Bay, Florida, and other counties will have their day in court over their challenge to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on masks on school campuses after a judge ruled the case had a right to trial.
In July, DeSantis issued an executive order banning mask mandates in Florida schools and gave the Florida Board of Education the right to withhold funding from districts for requiring masks without providing parents an opt-out option.
News 4 in Jacksonville, Florida, reported on the three-day hearing before Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper that started on Monday:
Charles Dodson, a former judge representing the parents challenging the governor’s order, said in an opening statement that the delta variant affects children more than the previous virus strain and places them at greater risk in crowded schools.
The Florida Constitution and state law give local school boards the authority to decide health and safety matters affecting their students, Dodson said. He asked the judge to block the DeSantis order.
A lawyer for the defendants — DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the state school board and education department — said the governor’s order comports with the state constitution and law, particularly the Parents Bill of Rights measure that took effect in July. That law states that only parents and legal guardians can “direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health” of their child, attorney Michael Abel said.
“Mask mandates are unnecessary,” Abel said. “We will show that all of the state’s actions were consistent with the Florida Constitution and state statute.”
WFLA also reported on the mask legal battle:
Despite the threat, seven school districts, including Hillsborough and Sarasota counties’, have imposed mask mandates. Four families from Tampa and St. Petersburg are suing the governor, calling the ban on mask mandates government overreach.
“Especially coming from a Republican governor,” DaMaris Allen, a parent named in the lawsuit, said in the report. “The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of local control and small government, and so when you don’t allow locally-elected officials to make their own decisions, then you can’t base it on the needs of the community.”
“This hearing is scheduled to end by Wednesday. It’s not immediately clear when Cooper will rule, but the judge has said he prefers to issue his decisions from the bench — and he acknowledged Monday that time is of the essence,” News 4 reported.
“I want everyone to have enough time, but I think we need to move as quickly as we can,” Cooper said.
The case is McCarthy v. DeSantis, No. 2021-ca-1382 in the Second Circuit Court for Leon County Florida.
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