Florida officials react to court ruling against Ron DeSantis school masking ban

covid 19 court
DeSantis' office said it will 'immediately appeal' the verdict.

Reactions were abundant Friday afternoon after a Leon County court decided Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration cannot block school districts from requiring masks.

While the battle over masks in schools is far from over, many have already weighed in on Judge John Cooper’s ruling that Florida law does not permit the state to enforce bans on mask mandates against school districts fighting COVID-19.

Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which he referred to as the “gold standard” on public health, Cooper called face masks “reasonable and consistent with the best scientific and medical guidance in the country at this time.”

Reactions from officials so far have been divided along party lines, with Republicans and staff from DeSantis’ office objecting while Democrats laud the verdict.

DeSantis’ office told Florida Politics it was “not surprising that Judge Cooper would rule against parents’ rights and their ability to make the best educational and medical decisions for their family, but instead rule in favor of elected politicians,” adding the ruling “was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts” or “the merits of the case presented.”

Communications Director Taryn Fenske said the administration “will immediately appeal” the ruling in the 1st District Court of Appeal, where administration officials are “confident” it will prevail on the merits of the case.

“We are used to the Leon County Circuit Court not following the law and getting reversed on appeal, which is exactly what happened last year in the school reopening case,” she said.

Cooper’s verdict “discards the rule of law” and “conflicts with basic and established rights of parents to make private health and education decisions for children,” Florida Department of Education spokesman Jared Ochs said.

Others expressed jubilance at the decision, including Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a frequent critic of DeSantis who is running for Governor. She demanded he stop blocking “common sense” protective measures.

“Governor, it’s past time to walk away from this ridiculous, politically motivated fight and focus instead on working together to protect the people of Florida by encouraging scientifically-proven (sic) vaccines and mask guidelines,” Fried said in a statement.

She called the ruling “a win for common sense, for children’s safety, and for all the families and school officials who have been fighting to protect their loved ones, students and staff.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Florida Governor who is also running to replace DeSantis, called the state mask mandate ban “outrageous” and the ruling a “huge win for all of Florida — our students, teachers, families, schools and economy.”

“This verdict helps keep our schools and economy open, while continuing to protect lives,” Crist said.

He said later by email: “Under (DeSantis’) watch, classes and schools have been forced to close, over 3 million Floridians have gotten sick with COVID-19, our hard fought economic comeback has been threatened and our teachers, students, and parents have become collateral damage in his political crusade.”

Sen. Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale fired off a tweet at around 1 p.m. declaring it a “big win for the good guys…and for the rule of law…and for science…and for common sense.”

In another Twitter post, he blasted DeSantis’ prior actions as “unconstitutional and authoritarian overreaches” but noted masking proponents “still have a fight ahead of us…”

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava similarly applauded Cooper’s ruling.

“Utilizing every tool we have to protect our students and teachers from COVID should be — and must be — common sense,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s how we slow the spread and keep our community and families safe.”

Just after 2 p.m. three members of the Florida House Democratic Caucus added their opinions.

“We should not be surprised by today’s decision that no one, not even the Governor, is above the law in Florida,” The Caucus co-leader, Rep. Evan Jenne of Hollywood, said in a statement. “The operation of our public schools constitutionally belongs to the school boards. This was overreach, pure and simple. I hope the Governor will take the time to pause to move back to his early position that the best government to make local decisions is local government. That was working for us and it could work for us again. There is no reason to waste taxpayer dollars appealing today’s decision which upheld constitutional separation of powers and upheld local decision-making.”

Rep. Fentrice Driskell concurred, anticipating DeSantis “will waste no time in appealing this decision at public expense to try and tighten his grip on local government.”

“I wish he would just go back to campaigning for President and let this decision stand,” she wrote.

Rep. Michael Grieco of Miami Beach added that Cooper “followed the law, something I wish everyone else in government would do, especially when we are talking about the health of children and educators.”

At around 2:30 p.m., Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz sent a statement by email praising “courageous school boards” in Florida, including those in Alachua, Broward, DuvalIndian River, Leon, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, that defied DeSantis’ executive order banning school mask rules.

“Governor DeSantis’ unconstitutional executive order banning mask protocols in schools was born from a stunning combination of blind political ambition and stupefying irresponsibility,” Diaz said. “It is an outrage parents had to go to court to force this administration to accept the decision of local school leaders to implement the public health measures they deemed necessary to save lives.”

Fifteen minutes later, Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls opined: “I stand firmly on the side of parental rights because parents, not local governments or school boards, are in the best position to make choices for their children.”

School officials also provided reactions.

Steve Gallon, the Miami-Dade School Board member who sponsored the resolution to bring back mask rules for public schools countywide, said the ruling, in effect, showed that those who accused School Boards of violating the state’s Parents’ Bill of Rights “are themselves in violation” of it.

Indian River Schools Superintendent David Moore said in 4:41 p.m. statement that Judge Cooper’s decision “validates that the School District of Indian River County is acting well-within (sic) their authority on the issue of using face coverings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and is not violating the rights of parents.”

The Hillsborough school district agreed: “We will continue to make the health and safety of students and staff a top priority.”

The Florida Department of Health reported 20,331 children younger than 12 tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 13-19, a marked uptick from the week prior, when the agency listed 16,754 new cases.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected]litics.com and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


30 comments

  • Andrew Finn

    August 27, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    Well, well, it looks like Judge Cooper is going to “stand in your way” Emperor DeSantis !!!!!! Oh my, how sweet that is. Now the school people can do what is right without fear of “retribution from the Emperor” Ha Ha — Here’s your ruling — eat it Ronnie !!!!!!

    • Maggie in FL

      August 28, 2021 at 5:39 pm

      Okay, all of you who are against Gov DeSantis, lets see how this works. You got it decided that masks MUST be worn, next it will be ruled that no jeans can be worrn in school, or no ice cream, because the judge doesn’t like it, will be served in school. The judge will rule the children should not have long hair or the boys should shave their heads, or another ruling, the parents do not get a call when a child is sick, the child is told to go home. All of these are controlling ideas that once someone tastes the flavor of telling people what they can or cannot do, they get that drug feeling of success and will not stop with one controlling rule. I believe parents should have the right to say what their children do. The ruling from the governor was that the parents have a say in whether their chid wears a mask or not. Actually the mask is dangerous in the fact the child is breathing carbon monoxide that his body gets rid of because it is not good for the child, but the mask just sends it back into the child worse than before. But some people want to rule everyone, Hitler did, he got rid of people who did not kiss his a or hand. This country is going socialist and then communist and China, after they have made everyone as they wish, will come in and take over killing many that fight for the right of freedom.

      • PeterH

        August 28, 2021 at 6:15 pm

        Fake News Maggie! Hospital staff have been wearing masks for decades and not a single case of carbon monoxide. You’re part of America’s problem. Sit back and enjoy your “socialist” Social Security check…with your forth glass of wine……and when you or your family members get Covid …. Do the hospital staff and the American taxpayer a HUGE FAVOR. Stay at home and wait it out. Don’t call an ambulance and don’t call a hospital.

      • Ashley

        August 29, 2021 at 2:42 am

        Are you seriously comparing this to jeans and ice cream? Get the hell out of here! Also, as a Nurse who has to wear a mask 12+ hours a day, I can attest wearing a mask is not harmful. Both my children have been wearing a mask since 2020 at their pre-school who is ran by the hospital system in which I work for. Neither of my children have had to quarantine or have tested positive for COVID due to wearing a mask and common sense. I, who care for 5 COVID patients for 12+ hours a day have also yet had COVID. Masks do work! Now what type of experience do you have???

      • agapito

        August 29, 2021 at 2:31 pm

        Maggie, what part of COVID, (protect the others), you don’t understand?
        Can some one force me to use A seat belt, or is my freedom?
        Can some one to use a child seat for my son and put him on the back seat, or my decision as a parent and my freedom?
        Are those a controlling socialist ideas.

      • Andrew Finn

        August 31, 2021 at 8:19 am

        Maggie — Were you born stupid, or did you have to learn as you went along ??

  • Peterh

    August 27, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    I thought the judge’s ruling today was quite clear. The judge cited compelling precedent in his rulings.

    Judge Cooper:

    “….. The judge also noted that two Florida Supreme Court decisions from 1914 and 1939 found that individual rights are limited by their impact on the rights of others. For example, he said, adults have the right to drink alcohol but not to drive drunk. There is a right to free speech, but not to harass or threaten others or yell “fire” in a crowded theater, he said.

    “We don’t have that right because exercising the right in that way is harmful or potentially harmful to other people,” Cooper said. He added that the law “is full of examples of rights that are limited (when) the good of others … would be adversely affected by those rights.”

    Per capita….in this current surge, Florida leads the nation in Covid infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Our dedicated hospital staff are exhausted. DeSantis couldn’t have picked a worst moment in this pandemic to propose this edict.

    This Governor’s magical thinking has led him to believe that wearing masks are bad for tourism and Florida’s economy.

    Covid isn’t just “magically going away with warm weather” ….. it’s now quite predictable that the virus and scores of variants will be with us for decades to come. Wearing a mask may not prevent ALL transmission…..but science has told us that next in line after the vaccine ….masks are our best line of defense.

    Instead of fighting masks parents and the Governor should be encouraging vaccine and masks. Teach your children how to properly wear and launder masks….. they may be required for the next several decades.

    Unless Floridians get vaccinated….. the next step will likely be Covid Passports to isolate the unvaccinated from the general population. Some hotels and cruise ships are only registering fully vaccinated individuals.

    • Alex

      August 27, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      So DeStupid will now argue parents rights supersede others rights in a way that “is harmful or potentially harmful to other people,”

      Good luck with that Governor!

    • Marion Lang

      August 27, 2021 at 4:41 pm

      Peter, excellent commentary! Thank you for sharing the fact that Judge Cooper cited cases from 1914 and 1939 including the relative context. Makes me feel much better about the case standing up to appeal.

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 27, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you Judge! Duffus Desantis is trying to be like the former guy! But thank our justice system for protecting and serving all citizens. 60 courts ruled against the former guy on the BIG LIE of election fraud. Now his Duffus Desantis has been handed a rebuke by the courts . Lock Desantis !

  • Andre

    August 27, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    If this goes to the FL Supreme Court, Governor Ron wins hands down. The rogue judge going against the FL State Legislature’s codified law and Governor’s Executive Order will be Overruled in the 1st District. The facists are the local clowns trying to force kids and faculty to wear face diapers against their own will. It’s time to start terminating the superintendents and school board officials and start removing them. Go Governor Ron!

    • Ocean Joe

      August 27, 2021 at 6:26 pm

      It is in federal court. The Republican yokels appointed by Desantis, Rick Scott, and Jeb! will not have a chance to touch it.

      • Tom P.

        August 29, 2021 at 11:18 am

        Read the first line of the article. Leon County Circuit Court is NOT federal…

        “Reactions were abundant Friday afternoon after a Leon County court”

  • Tom Palmer

    August 27, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    QED

  • razz

    August 28, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    What’s wrong with Governor DeSatan? If he’s quoted accurately in the story, then he seems to have forgotten that he is an elected politician. Why does he attack the Judge? Guess it’s a Russian inspired GOP tactic to tear down our institutions of civil society. This Ape’s tree only has one branch, apparently. What an embarrassment to Florida.

  • Matt

    August 28, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Homeschoolers and private schoolers deserve the $6,000 allocated for public school students. Watch a big sucking sound.

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 28, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    A woman with three kids could easily find a decent school or do the work herself for the $18,000 public allocation.

  • Kimber

    August 28, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    How dare the government tell you what to do with your kids. This is supposed to be a free nation…. #maskuponlyifyouwantto

    • agapito

      August 29, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      Kimber individual rights are limited by the impact on the rights of the community. P. ex. The government tell you to don’t drive Drunk, even if you are free to drink alcohol, also the government tell you and force you to use seat belt when driving, or to use a security seat for your child, All that to potent life’s, including yours.

    • Andrew Finn

      August 30, 2021 at 9:57 pm

      The same way they tell you to wear shirts and shoes in public places, not to drive drunk, wear seatbelts in cars, what speed to drive, to pay taxes, etc, etc, etc. When your kids get the virus – don’t ask the government (or anyone else) to save them.

  • George

    August 29, 2021 at 3:01 am

    Look you health care experts, and liberal communistic politicians, masks don’t work period, it’s been proven with all the covid cases that people wearing the mask, or vaccinated people get covid. Giving Mandates to anyone, will not work to stop a virus made in China and patented by Gates. There are multiple other ways to keep children, teachers, or whoever, safe from this virus. Listening only to dr. Fauci or a president (who’s not a dr in the first place) to go against any other forms of treatment or safety from the virus is itself communism. I’m mean we’re expected to listen to a president who’s way of leading America down a spiral of disaster, to put on a mask, get vaccinated, listen to everything the CDC says? Are you kidding me? I tell you people who think like this obviously wore a mask so much there’s no more oxygen going to there brain.

  • Slevhammer

    August 30, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    From the reading of this article, clearly Jesse is a liberal promoting a one sided response. Kudos to Governor DeSantis for caring about the good people of Florida and standing up for parental rights. It’s scientifically proven that masks are nasty, they don’t prevent disease, they make your health worse. What ruling did you expect to come from a half wit liberal judge? Nothing new here. The right will prevail on appeal as always.

    • PeterH

      August 30, 2021 at 3:09 pm

      From SLEVHAMMER’s statement:

      “ It’s scientifically proven that masks are nasty, they don’t prevent disease, they make your health worse.‘

      Folks this is FAKE NEWS UNSUPPORTED BY ANY SCIENTIFIC STUDY.

  • DENNIS M BALLARD

    August 30, 2021 at 6:35 pm

    I WILL DICTATE WHAT MY CHILD DOES AND DOES NOT DO, NOT A FILTH LEFTIST JUDGE OR FILTH LEFTIST POLITICIAN. THIS IS AMERICA, NOT FILTH CHINA. IF THATS WHAT YOU WANT, MOVE THERE.

    • Andrew Finn

      August 30, 2021 at 9:53 pm

      Great. When your child gets the virus —- cure him yourself !!!!!!

Comments are closed.


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