Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will learn next week if he’ll have to face a lawsuit by parents challenging his executive order banning mask mandates in schools.
At a hearing on Friday, Judge John C. Cooper of Florida’s second judicial circuit said he’d hear arguments on Aug. 19 and rule the same day on the state’s upcoming motion to dismiss the suit.
If he allows the case to proceed, Cooper said he’d hold a longer hearing the following week with testimony from health experts and other witnesses, including parents concerned about the spread of Covid in the schools, and issue a decision by Aug. 25.
“We are confident that the compliant will survive any attack under the forthcoming motion to dismiss,” Charles Gallagher, the parents’ lawyer, said in an email. “In reality, each passing day means more immediate peril and harm for those in school.”
DeSantis, a Republican seen as a possible successor to President Donald Trump, has staked out a position in a nationwide cultural clash by asserting that parents should be able to choose whether their children wear masks to school. A similar court fight broke out in Oklahoma this week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counters that masks are most effective when everyone uses them — not just the kids of concerned parents.
At the end of Friday’s hearing, held over Zoom, Cooper said all further matters in the case would also be conducted remotely. The judge noted he recently had to declare a mistrial in a case because everyone in the courtroom was exposed to Covid, illustrating the grip the virus has on the state.
A letter from 800 Florida physicians Friday said that DeSantis’s “one-size-fits-all” edict for schools will “only make matters worse,” as the state faces its most dramatic surge in Covid hospitalizations ever.