Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran late Thursday filed a notice of appeal to Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper‘s ruling that struck down DeSantis’ executive order banning local student mask mandates in schools.
The notice, filed with the 1st District Court of Appeal, triggers an immediate, automatic stay of Cooper’s order, which would put DeSantis and Corcoran back in business punishing districts that defy the Governor’s order.
The notice offers no particular challenges of facts, procedures, or legal conclusions found in Cooper’s 25-page written ruling filed earlier Thursday. The written order followed the decision the judge had offered orally in court last Friday, when he sided with parents who sued to overturn DeSantis’ ban on student mask mandates.
The three-page notice — with essentially just one page of argument, most of it boilerplate — simply stipulates that under Florida’s court jurisdiction rules, District Courts of Appeal “upon appeal, shall review all final orders of trial courts not directly reviewable by the supreme court or a circuit court, including county court final orders declaring invalid a state statute or provision of the state constitution.”
Cooper’s written decision did not explicitly invalidate any statutes or provisions in the Florida Constitution. Cooper wrote that the state ignored the full intent in the Parents’ Bill of Rights law the Legislature approved, and DeSantis signed, last spring.
The automatic stay sought by DeSantis and Corcoran would give them a resumption of legal authority to continue to act under his executive order.
DeSantis and Corcoran had acted earlier in the week, despite Cooper’s oral decision last week, when they announced state money would be withheld from Broward and Alachua counties’ school districts because those districts had implemented student mask mandates, in violation of DeSantis’ executive order.
The state said it was waiting for Cooper’s written order.
A number of other school districts also have implemented mask mandates and have been threatened with similar cuts in state funding, equal to school board members’ salaries.
“If the Defendants strictly enforce the Executive Order, the Department of Health rule, or any other policy prohibiting mask mandates without a parental opt-out, then they are acting without authority and are refusing to comply with all provisions of the law,” Judge Cooper wrote, referring to the Parents’ Bill of Rights.
The legal battle comes from the lawsuit filed last month by several parents in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit in Leon County.
The suing parents’ attorneys argued DeSantis “wrongfully assumes that state authorities can better determine the local health risks and educational needs of students and teachers.”
But the state’s lawyers stood by DeSantis’ assertion that a parent’s right to opt their children from mask mandates falls within the Parents’ Bill of Rights he signed into law in June, providing parents freedom from the state and public schools in how they raise their children, including regarding health matters.
Florida Politics reporter Renzo Downey contributed to this report.