In a victory for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a state appellate court on Friday reinstated a stay preventing school districts from imposing mask requirements for students in defiance of the governor’s orders.
In a decision handed down by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, Fla., the panel temporarily set aside a ruling issued Wednesday by Circuit Judge John Cooper in which he overrode an automatic stay preventing districts from imposing mask policies as the state and pro-mask parents continue to battle in court.
Friday’s ruling came a day after lawyers for DeSantis filed an emergency appeal of Cooper’s decision. It means the automatic stay now resumes and the state can continue to punish school officials who impose mask mandates without allowing parents to opt out.
“When a public officer or agency seeks appellate review, which is the case here, there is a presumption under the rule in favor of a stay, and the stay should be vacated only for the most compelling of reasons,” the appellate court wrote.
“Upon our review of the trial court’s final judgment and the operative pleadings, we have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters,” they added. “These doubts significantly militate against the likelihood of the appellees’ ultimate success in this appeal.”
Charles Gallagher, an attorney for parents suing the state, said “students, parents and teachers are back in harm’s way” with the appellate court decision.
“We are disappointed by the ruling of the 1st DCA that reinstates the stay and will be seeking pass through jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida since this matter involves statewide issues,” he said in a Twitter post.
In their Wednesday filing, DeSantis’ lawyers said that Cooper’s ruling and the reasoning for lifting the automatic stay was incorrect.
“Presently, there are no active policies in any school district that prohibit students from wearing masks. All of appellees’ children remain free to wear masks. Maintaining the automatic stay will not prohibit Appellees from masking their children,” they wrote.
Cooper ruled last month that the “Florida’s Parents Bill of Rights,” which took effect in July, does not prevent schools from requiring masks. School mandates that follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance are “at this time, reasonable,” he said.
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