A Florida judge ruled on Wednesday that schools can issue mask mandates while a court lawsuit challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on such mandates is being heard.
Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper said school districts can have control over whether they require face coverings while DeSantis appeals the judge’s August ruling saying the ban on mask mandates is unconstitutional, WESH-TV in Orlando reported.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that Cooper tossed an automatic stay of his August order, an unusual move.
“We’re not in normal times,” he said. “We’re in a pandemic.”
In July, DeSantis issued an executive order forbidding schools from ordering pupils to wear masks on the grounds that it violates parents’ rights to choose how to safeguard their children.
Last month, his government began withholding payments from schools that violated the mask prohibition. The school districts of Alachua and Broward counties have led the fight against the mask requirement ban, and its school board members have had their paychecks withheld. Mask mandates have also been enforced in at least nine additional districts.
In August, President Joe Biden urged DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to withdraw their mask mandate prohibitions and asked the Department of Education to take action against such restrictions.
“Our priority must be the safety of students, families, educators and staff in our school communities,” Biden’s order said. “Nothing should interfere with this goal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially said vaccinated students didn’t have to wear masks in school, but later tightened recommendations when the more virulent Delta variant caused a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases.