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DeSantis Win: Appeals Court Overrules Judge’s Block of Mask Mandate Ban in Schools

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) scored another win on Friday after the First District Court of Appeals granted a stay to the state’s request to reinstate the stay for a ban on school districts issuing and enforcing mask mandates.

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, announced the victory Friday afternoon.

“BREAKING: 1st District Court of Appeals just granted the State of Florida’s request to reinstate the stay — meaning, the rule requiring ALL Florida school districts to protect parents’ rights to make choices about masking kids is BACK in effect!” she said:

BREAKING: 1st District Court of Appeals just granted the State of Florida’s request to reinstate the stay — meaning, the rule requiring ALL Florida school districts to protect parents’ rights to make choices about masking kids is BACK in effect!

— Christina Pushaw (@ChristinaPushaw) September 10, 2021

This week, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper “lifted an automatic stay of his decision last week that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials exceeded their authority by imposing the blanket ban through executive order and tagging defiant pro-mask local school boards with financial penalties” after blocking the order last month.

“We’re not in normal times. We are in a pandemic,” Cooper said during a remote hearing. “We have a (coronavirus) variant that is more infectious and dangerous to children than the one we had last year.”

As a result, the state filed an emergency appeal to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, requesting a stay while the case moves through. At the time, DeSantis’s lawyers said they believed they had “a high likelihood of success on appeal.”

“Upon our review of the trial court’s final judgment and the operative pleadings, we have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters,” First District Judges Stephanie W. Ray, Judge Harvey L. Jay III, and A. S. Tanenbaum wrote. “These doubts significantly militate against the likelihood of the appellees’ ultimate success in this appeal.”

The full decision reads:

The appellants ask that we quash the trial court’s vacatur of the automatic stay imposed by Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.310(b)(2). When a public officer or agency seeks appellate review, which is the case here, there is a presumption under the rule in favor of a stay, and the stay should be vacated only for the most compelling of reasons. See Fla. Dep’t of Health v. People United for Med. Marijuana, 250 So. 3d 825, 828 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018). Upon our review of the trial court’s final judgment and the operative pleadings, we have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters. These doubts significantly militate against the likelihood of the appellees’ ultimate success in this appeal. Given the presumption against vacating the automatic stay, the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review. Accordingly, we grant the appellants’ motion, quash the trial court’s order vacating the automatic stay, and reinstate the stay required by Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.310(b)(2). A written order explaining this disposition will follow.

DeSantis signed an executive order to protect parental rights on masking children in schools in July.

The order “directs the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to issue emergency rules protecting the rights of parents to make this decision about wearing masks for their children,” DeSantis said at the time. “We think that that’s the most fair way to do it.”

“It would not be fair if we told parents who want the kids to wear masks they weren’t allowed to do it. But it’s certainly not fair to force parents who don’t believe the masks are good for their kids to force them to have to send their kids in masks,” he added.

The case is Scott v. DeSantis, No. 1D21-2685 in the First District Court of Appeal in Florida.

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