Lawsuit over Florida school mask mandates now before judge

Lawsuit over Florida school mask mandates now before judge


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The attorney for parents suing to overturn Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning strong student mask mandates told a judge Thursday that it violates the authority of school districts to decide health issues on their campuses — something the governor's lawyer strongly disputed.

Craig Whisenhunt told Circuit Judge John C. Cooper that DeSantis is endangering children by not letting districts follow guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that children be masked at school.

He pointed to Florida’s skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the delta variant took hold in June, including among children. Several Florida children’s hospitals have recently reported that they have more COVID patients than any time previously.

“Despite that reality, despite all of the science, the governor has sought to insert himself into matters of local health concerns and impede the ability of school boards to do what they are constitutionally mandated to do, which is to operate and control their schools,” Whisenhunt told the judge. The Tallahassee hearing, concluding a four-day trial, was held online because of the pandemic.

But Michael Abel, an attorney representing DeSantis and the state, argued there are widely divergent opinions among doctors over whether masks stop the disease's spread, particularly at schools. Given that, the governor has the authority to side with parents who believe it is their right to decide what is best for their children and not school boards or other parents, Abel argued.

“Parents know their own children better than their teachers know them. Better than their children’s doctors know them. Better than school administrators know them. Better than school...

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