TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Thursday, a Leon County judge filed a final judgment that found Gov. Ron DeSantis' school mask mandate ban to be unconstitutional and illegal. Within hours, though, the governor filed an appeal to the ruling that negated any barrier to enforcing the ban while the case is under review.

While Judge John Cooper of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit granted a permanent injunction that prevented the state from “taking any action to effect a blanket ban on face mask mandates with no parent opt-out by local school boards,” the appeal resulted in an automatic stay of the judge's decision.

At issue is the governor's ability to ban mask mandates in schools that don't allow parents to opt out, which he did via an executive order in July. Since then, numerous school districts have enacted mask mandates in schools despite threats from the state of withholding school board members' pay.

Despite Cooper's Aug. 27 decision that blanket bans violate the Parents' Bill of Rights, the Florida Department of Education has already started to withhold monthly school board salaries in Alachua and Broward counties, and announced investigations into multiple others, including Hillsborough and Orange County schools.

At the time, state officials argued they were within their rights to act because Cooper's order was not yet official.

"To date, a signed written order has not been issued. At this point, we will continue to act with urgency to protect the rights of parents and students," wrote Jared M. Ochs, FLDOE Director of Communications and External Affairs, in an email to Spectrum News Tuesday. "We will not let up, and we will not stop holding elected school board members who refuse to follow the law accountable."

Now that the order has been officially filed, but then stayed by DeSantis' appeal, the parents of Florida students who filed the lawsuit have filed an emergency motion to vacate the automatic stay and allow the injunction to go into effect. 

They argue that allowing the mask mandate ban to stand will cause irreparable damage to Florida students and school districts.

"If the automatic stay remains in place, Plaintiffs will continue to face the increased risk of the delta variant infection, local school boards will continue to face penalties from Defendants from their enforcement of the Executive Order, and local school boards will be faced with the choice of being subject to penalties issued by Defendants (for) protecting Plaintiffs, students, and school staff by having the ability to issue mandatory mask mandates without parental opt-out," the emergency motion said. 

No information was immediately available on when the emergency motion would be heard by a judge.


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