A judge on Friday dismissed a challenge to Florida’s ban on mask mandates in schools, siding with the state of Florida.
The challenge was filed by officials from six school districts—Alachua, Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Leon counties. They were among eight school boards that were dealt penalties after adopting masks mandates.
Specifically, the Florida government started to deduct an amount equal to a month’s pay from school board members in the counties. The state also withheld overall funding to Alachua and Broward counties, in attempts to offset federal grants that were given to them to help keep the mask mandates in place.
Tallahassee Deputy Chief Judge Brian Newman rejected the suit, writing in the ruling (pdf) that school officials failed to prove the mask mandate ban “is an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.”
He said the school boards “failed to prove that the emergency rule opt-out provisions facilitate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.”
The judge also said the Florida Department of Health has lawful authority to govern the control of COVID-19 in school settings throughout the state.
The Florida Department of Health in a statement said the ruling is “yet another victory for parent’s rights.”
“At this point, the courts have been entirely clear: All school districts must come into compliance with the law and honor parental rights to make decisions for their children,” the department said in a statement.
State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said in a statement, “The rights of parents continue to be protected in Florida, as we can see by this tremendous decision. Florida will not make decisions out of fear, but rather out of close analysis of the data.”
The school districts filed a notice to appeal Newman’s order on Friday, reported ABC News.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Education has filed a request with an administrative judge at the federal level to block Florida from withholding funding from Alachua and Broward counties.
Earlier this week, the First District Court of Appeal overruled the decision of a Leon County circuit court judge, reinstating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on school mask mandates.
DeSantis issued an executive order on July 30 to ban school mask mandates. The state’s health department carried out the order by issuing a rule on Aug. 6 and later a revised version on Sept. 22.
The revised version of the rule said that the only children required to quarantine are those that either test positive for COVID-19 or who are symptomatic. This was not in the Aug. 6 version of the rule. DeSantis’s office said the revised rule will “protect healthy students from forced quarantining.”