Florida judge hears debate on school boards’ challenge on masking at schools

ORLANDO, Fla. — A judge is listening on Thursday to the challenge filed by Orange County and six other school boards, over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order over masking at schools.

The hearing has gone on for hours on Thursday and will hopefully wrap up on Friday.

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The school boards have argued the process the state used to override their mask policies, was basically no process, while the state held that anything it did was within its power.

“I do believe that masks are a safe and effective way to help prevent the spread of covid,” said pediatrician Dr. Lisa Gwynn.

Gwynn, on behalf of six school boards across the state and as the president of the Florida chapter of the  American Academy of Pediatrics, shared her medical opinion during this hearing on mask rules at schools, which she said aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The school boards, including Orange County, are challenging the governor’s emergency order against mask mandates, saying no opt-outs make schools safer.

But the real issue in this legal challenge, argued the Florida Department of Health, is using its authority to enforce parental rights.

The FDOH chief of staff Cassandra Pasley, explained action was taken because “students were already in school, and there was a need to communicate immediately to the school.”

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School board attorneys are contending they should not be subject to an order that came without public notice, or any declared state of emergency.

“Parents should rest easy here,” DeSantis said.

In Clearwater on Thursday, DeSantis vowed to strengthen support against what he sees as growing violations of parental rights.

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“I know a lot of parents want to be in the driver’s seat even if they want certain things, they still want to be the ones to make the decision so that is protected,” DeSantis said.

The administrative law judge also said he wanted to hear less expert opinion and see more hard data to back up what experts were saying on both sides.

He said he won’t be making any findings without those studies.

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