Florida classroom mask debate heads to court this week

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LEON COUNTY, FL – New developments are expected this week, involving two lawsuits that could impact students statewide as the classroom mask debate returns to the courtroom.

Last week, a judge ruled that the state’s lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on school masks could go ahead. A three-day hearing in the case begins Monday. A decision could be made later this week.

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In the lawsuit, parents claim that the governor’s order prevents Florida from providing “safe and secure public schools.” The state says the current rule puts parents first.

Judi Hayes, an Orange County lawyer and mother of two students, is the main plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against the DeSantis mask ban.

She said she was happy to see the state trial moving forward.

“It kind of gave us some insight into the defenses that the governor’s lawyers are going to put in place. We have anticipated this ongoing argument that literally no one has standing to challenge the Governor’s Order in Council, ”said Hayes.

Hayes, along with a group of parents and children with disabilities, filed a federal complaint earlier this month. They say the governor’s mask ban and the education commissioner’s order, which prevents school districts from offering hybrid learning models, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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“We are looking to suspend the threat of penalizing districts that offer this,” Hayes said.

The Orange County School Board is named as the defendant in the federal lawsuit. The school board has scheduled an executive session on Monday to meet behind closed doors to discuss its litigation strategy.

The board discussed a universal mask mandate at an emergency meeting last week, but no action was taken.

Hayes said she was watching all of this closely and hoped for a good result.

“We are looking for this blanket declaratory measure that will benefit every child in Florida and every child in school in Florida, so if we win then everyone wins,” she said.

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