The masks are here to stay in public schools in Alachua County.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper called Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on school district mask warrants unconstitutional and ruled against it on Friday.
ACPS was one of 10 counties to challenge the ban on DeSantis’ mask tenure, joining Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Sarasota, Duval, Indian River and Orange County.
Following DeSantis’ executive order preventing schools from creating cover mask warrants, a group of Florida parents of public school children sued the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Board of Education, the commissioner of education Richard Corcoran and the governor.
In his decision, Cooper established that the defendants did not have the power to prevent school boards from imposing mask warrants, making DeSantis’ order unconstitutional.
Cooper’s decision on Friday means that the mask warrant ban will become null and void, as he determined that the state “violated the due process rights of the local district.”
Until the written order is issued next week, the mask warrant ban will remain in place.
After Cooper’s decision, a spokesperson for DeSantis issued a statement expressing the administration’s disgust at the result, citing a violation of parents’ right to choose.
“It is no surprise that Justice Cooper speaks out against parents’ rights and their ability to make the best educational and medical decisions for their families, but instead speaks in favor of elected politicians,” the statement said. “This decision was made with inconsistent justifications, not based on science and the facts – frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented.”
Cooper, in a Zoom appeal that was broadcast live on YouTube, said the governor had expressed doubts about the validity of the CDC’s guidelines in his executive order.
“The CDC, by the overwhelming weight of evidence, is considered the preeminent medical authority in this country,” Cooper said. “The State of Florida has in the past repeatedly adopted and incorporated the CDC guidelines and recommendations into state statutes.”
“So not only do the doctors here recognize the CDC as a legitimate and reputable source of information, but it appears that for many years the Florida legislature has as well.”
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After the CSGA mask mandate was in place, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran emailed Alachua County Superintendent Carlee Simon on August 20, requesting records for any student reprimanded for failing to comply with CSGA’s “Illegal Face Coverage Mandate Policy”.
On August 26, a day before Cooper’s decision, Simon curtly responded to Corcoran’s demands.
“Since the Alachua County School Board does not have a warrant policy to cover the face illegally, we have nothing to report,” Simon’s email read.
In Simon’s official statement about the ruling, she agreed with the court ruling, but warned that ruling was not the end of the battle.
“The state has made it clear that it will appeal any decision it considers unfavorable,” Simon wrote. “Fortunately, the school board has given me the power to take legal action to protect our district’s ability to make decisions in the best interests of our students, families, employees and the community by general. “
The Alachua County School Board celebrated after Cooper’s decision; their challenge to the executive order of DeSantis ultimately turned out to be legal.
School board president Leanetta McNealy said she wanted to “dance a jig”.
“I’m happy, and it’s almost like it’s my birthday,” McNealy said. “They don’t know how it helps all the kids and all the employees in our community. “
McNealy, along with other board members, was responsible for creating the mask’s tenure. One of the main pillars of their decision was the advice of medical professionals, she said, sometimes even providing advice via email.
UF should also make sure to listen to these medical professionals for the fall semester, she said, especially given the recent spike in Delta variant COVID-19 cases.
Alachua County had a total of 403 COVID-19 patients as of Friday. Of these patients, 16 were pediatric cases. Above all, the vaccinations combined with the masking are the right combination to prevent the spread in the classroom, she said.
“Now we need to be more encouraged than ever to go on and take the vaccine,” McNealy said.
Contact Max Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MTaylor_Journ.
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Max is a first year journalism student. In the past, she worked as the editor of her high school yearbook and is now a news desk assistant for The Alligator. When not reporting, Max enjoys reading and listening to rock music.