Alachua County School Board pleased with judge’s ruling blocking Gov. DeSantis’ order

Alachua County School Board pleased with judge’s ruling blocking Gov. DeSantis’ order
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 10:07 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The Alachua County School Board received a small win after the Florida 2nd Circuit Court Judge ruled Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning masks mandates illegal.

“We’re very pleased although in the same aspect we’re managing our expectations,” Alachua County Superintendent Carlee Simon said.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled that districts can legally require students to wear a mask in school to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The ruling was despite the governor’s order that not only banned such mandates, but also threatened to withhold pay for school board members.

“The judge pointed out that it illustrated that the governor was over reaching his authority,” Simon said. “We share that observation.”

Related story: Judge blocks Florida governor’s order banning mask mandates

Alachua and Broward counties were the first two to defy the order and eight other school districts followed suit.

Alachua County Education Association President Carmen Ward said more than half the children in public schools in the state are under mask mandates, thanks to school board members.

“Our leadership in this county is to thank for that because they refused to back down and they just kept doing what was in the best interest of our students and our staff,” Ward said.

The governor’s office sent TV20 a statement regarding the judge’s ruling.

Related story: “We are standing for what is right”: Alachua County School Board members vote to extend mask mandate

“This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts -- frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented,” Governor DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenske wrote. “We are used to the Leon County Circuit Court not following the law and getting reversed on appeal, which is exactly what happened last year in the school reopening case. We will continue to defend the law and parent’s rights in Florida, and will immediately appeal the ruling to the First District Court of Appeals, where we are confident we will prevail on the merits of the case.”

Just like the Governor’s Office, the Florida Department of Education also mentioned appealing the decision.

In a statement to TV20, a representative said, “We are immensely disappointed that the ruling issued by the second judicial circuit discards the rule of law,” Director of Communications Jared Ochs wrote. “...We are committed to the fundamental rights of parents and will push forward on appeal to ensure that this foundation of democracy is upheld.”

Simon said they expect more challenges on their decision in the future, but in the meantime students will still be required to mask up.

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