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Appeals Court Reinstates Stay. State Can Again Enforce Rules To Halt Mask Mandates

In a tweet after the appeals court decision, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will continue to fight for parents' rights.

The Department of Education can resume efforts to impose financial penalties on the 13 school boards defying rules put in place by the governor's executive order.

The on-again, off-again executive order imposed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that prevents school districts from mandating masks for students is back in force.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper should not have lifted an automatic stay two days ago that halted enforcement of a ban on mask mandates that did not include parental opt-outs.

The upshot is that the Department of Education can resume its efforts to impose financial penalties on the 13 school boards defying rules put in place by state agencies to enforce the executive order.

The governor has stood firm in his belief that parents should have the right to make health care choices for their children. That led to the Legislature recently passing a law, the Parents' Bill of Rights, which gives parents control of their children's health and education decisions.

"No surprise here - the 1st DCA has restored the right of parents to make the best decisions for their children, DeSantis tweeted after the appeals court decision. "I will continue to fight for parents’ rights."

Last week, in a challenge to the executive order by a group of parents, Cooper ruled DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority. Cooper said the Department of Education improperly imposed the financial penalties without giving the districts due process.

The administration appealed, which kicked in an automatic stay, but attorneys for the parents filed a motion to lift the stay. Cooper lifted the stay, allowing disticts to again enforce the mask mandates during the appeals process.

However, the state filed an emergency motion asking the appeals court to reinstate the stay. In the motion, attorneys for defendants DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Department of Education and the Board of Education argued that Cooper’s ruling violated constitutional separation of powers and delved into policy and political issues.

The U.S. Department of Education has begun a grant program for school districts that lose money for implementing anti-coronavirus practices such as mandatory masks.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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