Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has faced significant opposition to a statewide ban on mask mandates in schools, including an ongoing series of appeals in court.
A county judge last week ruled against the ban and lifted an automatic stay that would have delayed the ruling while the case was appealed. That ruling was short-lived, however, a state appeals court unanimously overruled the lower court, reimposing the stay.
“The stay should have been left in place”
As the Daily Caller explained, this means the state can resume enforcement of a ban on school mask mandates that do not include the ability for parents to opt out.
Enforcement of the ban can include withholding salaries and other funds from school districts found to be in violation.
The three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued its unanimous ruling in favor of DeSantis on Friday as part of a lawsuit filed by a group of parents opposed to the executive order.
“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,” the panel wrote. “These doubts significantly militate against vacating the automatic stay, the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review.”
As such, the judges decided to “quash” the lower court’s decision and reimpose the stay. They advised that a more thorough written order explaining their decision would be issued soon.
“I will continue to fight for parents’ rights”
DeSantis shared his reaction to the latest ruling in a tweet, writing: “No surprise here — the 1st DCA has restored the right of parents to make the best decisions for their children. I will continue to fight for parents’ rights.”
Charles Gallagher, the lead attorney for the parents, also expressed his thoughts in a statement.
“We are disappointed by the ruling and will be seeking pass-through jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida,” he wrote. “With a stay in place, students, parents and teachers are back in harm’s way.”
At the heart of the controversy is the law that went into effect in June. Known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, it states in part that no state entity or institution can “infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, healthcare, and mental health” of a child “without demonstrating that such action is reasonable an necessary to achieve a compelling state interest.”
For now, at least, the DeSantis administration can continue enforcing the mask mandate ban in schools across Florida. Its effectiveness could be limited, though, if President Joe Biden intervenes to offset the amount of funding withheld by the state.