Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to appeal a judge's ruling that allows school districts to impose mask mandates in his first public comments since the judge's decision.
DeSantis held a news conference Monday morning at the Duval County Department of Health headquarters in Jacksonville, where he addressed Friday's ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper, who said the state's school districts can legally require students to wear masks.
"Obviously it's problematic," DeSantis said. "I think we're going to have really good grounds to appeal."
Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis' executive order banning school mask mandates is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The governor's order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school.
Cooper said DeSantis’ order "is without legal authority.”
DeSantis on Monday said he still believes parents should be given the right to opt out.
"They've basically taken away the right of the parent and said 'you don't have any say in it,'" DeSantis said. "I think at the end of the day, ultimately we're just trying to stand with the parents. We think it's important that they be given the ability to opt out."
Cooper's decision came after a four-day virtual hearing, and after 10 Florida school boards voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask requirements with no parental opt-out. Districts that have done so include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach and others. Cooper's ruling will not go into effect until it is put into writing, which the judge asked the parents' lawyers to complete by Monday.
Cooper said that while the governor and others have argued that a new Florida law gives parents the ultimate authority to oversee health issues for their children, it also exempts government actions that are needed to protect public health and are reasonable and limited in scope. He said a school district’s decision to require student masking to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus falls within that exemption.
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