A Florida judge on Friday struck down Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates in Florida’s schools, ruling that the Republican governor’s ban is unconstitutional.
Judge John Cooper’s ruling is welcome news for the numerous counties throughout Florida that have openly defied DeSantis and mandated face coverings for students, teachers, staff and visitors to their schools. DeSantis had based his executive order banning mask mandates on the “Parents Bill of Rights” that the governor had enacted, which says that parents have the final say over whether children could be forced to wear a mask in school.
“Parents’ right are very important but they’re not without some reasonable limitations,” usually in regard to health care or safety, the judge noted. He cited a 1914 Florida Supreme Court case involving the limiting of individual rights so as not to injure others. He also compared the mask mandate debate to drunk driving.
“We all zealously protect our personal rights,” he said. “We can drink until we’re intoxicated…but we cannot get in our car and start driving around while we’ve had alcoholic beverages that impair our ability to drive. We all have the right to drink alcohol, but the driver’s right to drive intoxicated is limited by the government.”
“When we talk about absolute and fundamental rights, there’s always a footnote,” Cooper added. “Well let’s see if exercising this right harms other people.”
The judge also rejected the claim made by a psychologist at a closed-door DeSantis-led roundtable that “masking is child abuse.”
“I’ve seen no scientific evidence of that,” Cooper said.
DeSantis, whose state is being ravaged by the coronavirus, previously said he would appeal if he didn’t prevail.