Judge vacates stay, allows school mask mandates

Judge John C. Cooper of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County has granted a motion to vacate stay allowing school board mask mandates to remain in effect and preventing school districts from being punished for doing so.

In a two-hour hearing on Tuesday, Cooper heard final arguments from attorneys representing the state and attorneys representing a group of parents from Alachua, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.

“This is not a complicated case,” Cooper said, as he delivered his ruling and referred to the Florida Parents’ Bill of Rights.

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“It’s a law passed by legislature, it says what I said it said or it doesn’t.”

Cooper stated that the defendants in the case, who filed an appeal, only argued part of the bill of rights that states parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children.

Cooper said that the law also allows for school boards or other government agencies to adopt policies related to health that may affect parents rights over their children.

“It is undisputed that we are in midst of a pandemic,” Cooper said, noting that vaccine levels are not high enough, the delta variant is far more infectious and children under 12 cannot be vaccinated.

“There is only one or two means to protect them,” Cooper said. “Stay at home or wear a mask.”

Cooper’s ruling takes effect immediately.

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon applauded the decision in a Wednesday statement. 

“Judge Cooper’s ruling is certainly good news,” she said. “It confirms that our School Board members should not be penalized for approving our mask policy—a policy that follows both the law and medical science.”

Simon said the district will continue to monitor developments as it continues its own litigation over the mandate ban

We’ll continue to watch this case closely while pursuing legal action with our colleagues from the Broward and Orange County school systems. We are committed to protecting the district’s right to meet the needs of students and staff without the threat of sanctions.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated. 

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