San Francisco Chronicle

Judge declines to block Florida’s school mask ban


A federal judge declined this week to block a ban imposed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to prevent mandating masks for Florida school students amid the ongoing coronaviru­s outbreak.

Judge K. Michael Moore in Miami denied a request by parents of disabled children for a preliminar­y injunction against an executive order that DeSantis issued in July that served as the basis for the Florida Department of Health issuing a rule that required school districts to allow parents to opt out of any student mask mandates.

Moore wrote in his ruling that parents should have pursued administra­tive claims before filing a lawsuit.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Dietz said in an email that he believed the judge misconstru­ed a U.S. Supreme Court decision about the exhaustion of administra­tive remedies in cases involving children with disabiliti­es. He pointed out that it takes at least 75 days for administra­tive preconditi­ons to be exhausted in Florida, meaning children with disabiliti­es who would be seriously injured or killed by a COVID-19 infection would be unable to return safely to their school.

The ruling means the state can resume its efforts to impose financial penalties on the 12 school boards currently defying the mask mandate ban. Those have included docking salaries of local school board members who voted to impose student mask mandates.

DeSantis has argued that the new Parents Bill of Rights law reserves solely for parents the authority to determine whether their children should wear a mask to school. School districts with mandatory mask rules allow an opt-out only for medical reasons, not parental discretion.

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