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Florida Judge Throws Out Gov. Ron DeSantis' Order Prohibiting School Mask Mandates

Students sit in an Algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School on the first day of school on Monday in Miami Lakes, Fla. Miami-Dade County public schools require students to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Marta Lavandier
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AP
Students sit in an Algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School on the first day of school on Monday in Miami Lakes, Fla. Miami-Dade County public schools require students to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A Florida judge has ruled school districts in the state can require students to wear masks. At least ten school districts — including those in many of the largest cities — had been defying state rules banning masks ordered by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Judge John Cooper ruled on a lawsuit brought by parents who say Governor DeSantis overstepped his authority when his administration said school districts couldn't order students to wear masks. DeSantis had warned "there will be consequences" for districts that defied the ban.

In court this week, lawyers for the parents say DeSantis's order violates a constitutional requirement that districts operate schools that are safe and secure. The state maintains parents have the ultimate authority to decide what's best for their kids. The judge's ruling allows school districts to require masks.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes his mask off as he prepares to speak during a press conference at the Hard Rock Stadium testing site on May 06, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes his mask off as he prepares to speak during a press conference at the Hard Rock Stadium testing site on May 06, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Noting that the coronavirus — and particularly the Delta variant — is highly contagious and sometimes fatal to children, Cooper urged people to take a step back, "We will not solve any issue if we can't sit down and work together and take positions recognizing what's going on is not some recent imposition or some attack on the country."

The coronavirus and the Delta variant have ripped across Florida in recent months (an elementary school in Vero Beach shut down on Friday until after Labor Day). More people have been infected and hospitalized of COVID than at any point during the pandemic. The number of deaths, about 242 a day, is also near a record level.

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As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.