Judge: Florida can’t enforce ban on mask mandates during appeal

At least for now, Florida cannot ban public schools from requiring students wear masks while on campus, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

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The ruling by Circuit Judge John Cooper comes as an appeals court is set to decide if the ban on mask mandates that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in July is legal.

According to DeSantis, the recently passed Parents Bill of Rights allows parents, not the school system, to make the decision on whether their children should wear a mask to school.

According to Cooper, the Parents Bill of Rights reserves health and education decisions regarding children to parents unless a government entity can show their action — such as requiring masks at schools — is reasonable and aimed narrowly at the issue at hand.

“We’re not in normal times. We are in a pandemic,” Cooper said during the hearing.

“We have a (coronavirus) variant that is more infectious and dangerous to children than the one we had last year.”

Cooper said supporting evidence by parents who object to DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools shows that masks do provide some protection for children, particularly for those who are younger than 12 and cannot get a COVID-19 vaccine yet.

Thirteen school boards across the state have put mandatory mask requirements in place, despite DeSantis’ order, allowing students to opt out only for medical reasons.

So far, two of the state’s school boards have had their salaries withheld for instituting mask mandates, something DeSantis threatened to do last month.