OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been an adamant opponent of Joe Biden, scored another court victory against Democrats.
On Friday Florida’s 1st District Court reinstated a stay on mask mandates in schools that DeSantis had instituted, blocking local school requirements, CNN reported.
The order stops a lower courts temporary freeze on the governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools.
“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 order said.
“Given the presumption against vacating the automatic stay, the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review,” it said.
The latest court ruling comes amid a showdown between the state and some local school districts that have insisted on requiring students to wear masks as Covid-19 infections surge.
The civil rights enforcement arm of the US Department of Education added to the issue Friday, saying it is opening an investigation into whether the Florida education department “may be preventing school districts in the state from considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities” with the mask mandate ban.
The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran Friday, detailing how “OCR is concerned that Florida’s policy requiring public schools and school districts to allow parents to opt their children out of mask mandates may be preventing schools in Florida from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
The federal department last month said it had sent letters to state school officials in five states — Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — notifying them of investigations into whether their state mask restrictions prevented students with disabilities from “safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law.”
“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,” the governor said on Twitter, celebrating his victory.
Some school districts did not agree with the decision and vowed to continue the fight.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools said that it will continue its mask mandate policy as the appeals continue. Broward County Public Schools also said that ti would continue its current policies.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and we’ve got to respond accordingly to what’s in the best interest of our students related to the pandemic,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright said on Friday at a press conference. “We look forward to the future ruling from the District Court of Appeals.”
Orange County Public Schools will “continue to monitor the court proceedings,” Michael Ollendorff, a spokesperson, said. “Our current policy remains in place through October 30.”
Brevard Public School System spokesperson Katherine Allen said that they had “not been notified of any changes to our current policy at this time.”
“The decision is disappointing, but we understood from the beginning that the legal battle over masks in schools would take time and not every decision would be favorable,” Alachua County Public Schools spokesperson Jackie Johnson said.
The Department of Education on Thursday announced a grant program to help schools that are punished for enforcing mask mandates, CBS News reported.
“Every student across the country deserves the opportunity to return to school in-person safely this fall, and every family should be confident that their school is implementing policies that keep their children safe,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said. “We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them.”