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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeals ruling that said he didn’t have authority to ban mask mandates in schools

The notice to appeal filed Thursday says that “the filing in this Notice triggers an automatic stay pending review,” but attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case — parents from Miami-Dade, Orange, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Alachua counties — have filed an emergency notice to vacate the stay.

Thirteen Florida school districts have now implemented a mask mandate, without a parent opt out, defying an earlier executive order by the governor.

The state’s appeal comes about a week after Leon County 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled DeSantis “did not have the authority for a blanket mandatory ban against face mask policy, that does not provide a parental opt-out.” The judge signed a written order against the governor’s ban on Thursday.

DeSantis’ executive order, issued in late July, had directed the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Health to issue emergency rules giving parents a choice on whether their children should wear masks in class.
The order prompted showdowns between the state and some local school districts, which insisted on requiring masks amid a surge of Covid-19.

In his ruling last week, Cooper cited the evidence presented in a four-day hearing, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for universal masking of students and teachers.

“I have heard significant evidence concerning the medical and scientific basis for face mask policies and I conclude this evidence demonstrates that face mask policies that follow CDC guidance at this point in time are reasonable,” Cooper said.

Two Florida counties stick with mask mandates despite financial penalties

A spokesperson for DeSantis said at the time that the state would appeal the decision, saying the ruling was “made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts — frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented.”

Last week, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent letters to nine school districts demanding they “document how your district is complying with Florida Department of Health emergency rule” as part of a non-compliance investigation. Corcoran also threatened to withhold state funds if districts didn’t fully comply with the governor’s order.

But those nine districts have doubled down, arguing they and their mask mandates are in compliance with the law. Some also pointed to Cooper’s ruling.

Still, the Florida Department of Education earlier this week announced it was moving forward with its plan to withhold salaries from school board members in Alachua and Broward counties, which were the first to implement mask mandates without giving parents the opportunity to have their students opt out.

CNN’s Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

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