Second Circuit Judge John Cooper blocked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis from temporarily banning masks in public schools Wednesday.
Last week Cooper ruled that DeSantis could not punish local schools for requiring masks. DeSantis appealed the decision and sought to ban masks until a higher court rendered a final decision, but Cooper ruled in favor of Florida schools, allowing them to continue requiring masks.
During trial, DeSantis argued that local schools requiring masks were violating the Parents’ Bill of Rights. He further defended Executive Order 21-175, also called Ensuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose – Masks in Schools, which asserts that “masking children may lead to negative health and societal ramifications.” Parents countered that the state has a duty to ensure safety in schools.
Cooper applied a strict scrutiny test and found that schools mask policies are “the least restrictive way of addressing the virus” and that public safety is a compelling state interest. Hence, he held that the schools’ mask policies were valid because they were narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling state interest of public safety.
After Cooper’s ruling, Republican Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini announced that he “filed HB 75, a Bill to totally BAN all vaccine & mask mandates in Florida.” He added, “Woke corporations, radical school boards, and lawless local governments are violating the rights of every Floridian—its [sic] time to fight back.”
Recently, the US Department of Education began investigating five states to determine whether each states’ mask ban violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. However, the department chose not to investigate Florida and three other states because those states were not enforcing their mask bans.