Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order to keep school districts from mandating masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A judge Friday struck down the order. File Photo By Gary I. Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 27 (UPI) -- A circuit judge Friday struck down a measure by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state's Board of Education that banned school districts from instituting mask mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled in Tallahassee that Florida's Parents Bill of Rights, which took effect in July, does not prevent schools from requiring masks. School mandates that follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance are "at this time, reasonable," he said.
"We had a less dangerous form of the virus last year than we do this year," Cooper said, adding that the dominant Delta variant of the coronavirus puts more children at risk now than last year when mask mandates were in place, WPLG-TV reported.
DeSantis and the Board of Education are expected to appeal the ruling.
Attorney Craig Whisenhunt, who represented the parents against DeSantis' executive order, argued in court Thursday that the governor overstepped his authority.
"We're asking you to direct Commissioner [Richard] Corcoran and the Department of Education to cease and desist the enforcement of the unconstitutional order that they are currently beating school districts down with to force compliance in unsafe environments," Whisenhunt said, according to WFTS-TV.
Michael Abel, an attorney for DeSantis and the Board of Education, argued that parents have general control of a child's healthcare and should be allowed to opt out of any mask mandate.
"This entire procedure -- from the executive order to the Department of Health rule, to its implementation and enforcement -- all of it comports with the Florida Constitution and statutes," Abel said. "Plaintiffs haven't shown otherwise."
Florida has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases as students head back to school this month. The Miami Herald reported Friday the state added 21,765 more cases and 901 deaths on Thursday, based on calculations of CDC data.