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Appeals court sides with DeSantis, reinstating Florida's ban on school mask mandates

Florida public health expert on COVID & kids
Florida public health expert on the spread of COVID-19 as kids go back to school 09:17

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' ban on school mask mandates will remain in place as the measure faces legal challenges in court, an appeals court ruled Friday. The order reverses a judge's decision to put the governor's ban on hold.

"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," read the order from the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

"Given the presumption against vacating the automatic stay, the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review."

The decision is the latest development in the showdown between DeSantis and local school districts, some of which have defied the governor's order and imposed mask mandates. In response, the Florida Board of Education imposed funding cuts for school board members in districts that stood down on their mask mandate policies.

The Department of Education on Thursday announced a new grant program designed to provide extra funding to schools that are punished for enforcing mask mandates. Local schools and individual staff can apply for the grants, which the department said will occur on an "ongoing" basis.

"Every student across the country deserves the opportunity to return to school in-person safely this fall, and every family should be confident that their school is implementing policies that keep their children safe," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them."

In July, DeSantis signed an executive order barring public schools from requiring face masks. But last month, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper said the governor's order was unconstitutional and allowed school mask mandates to move forward.

DeSantis reacted to Friday's decision on Twitter: "No surprise here — the 1st DCA has restored the right of parents to make the best decisions for their children. I will continue to fight for parents' rights."

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