Breaking News
More () »

Judge set to make decision in lawsuit challenging DeSantis' ban on school mask mandates

We could find out Friday if a judge thinks the power to make decisions on school mask mandates should lie with the state or with individual school districts.

FLORIDA, USA — A lawsuit filed by several Tampa Bay-area attorneys and parents against Gov. Ron DeSantis' school mask mandate ban appeared before a judge this week.

And we could find out Friday whether he thinks the state or individual school districts should have the power to decide if masks will be required in the classroom.

After Florida Judge John Cooper previously denied the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the hearing began with both sides arguing their case virtually. 

During opening statements, the state said its experts concluded "there is no scientific or medical reason to require masking in school children" and "considerable evidence that requiring children to wear masks all day in school correlates with harms to their learning and development, both physically and psychologically."  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, recommends universal indoor masking by all students, staff, teachers and visitors regardless of vaccination status.

After doctors, hospital workers and parents on both sides of the argument pleaded their case before a judge, lawyers wrapped up their closing arguments on Thursday.

The lawsuit, claiming the governor's ban on mandating masks in schools violates the Florida Constitution, was first filed on Aug. 6.

“Our main argument is that there's an irreparable harm,” said Natalie Paskiewicz, a St. Petersburg-based attorney who recently joined the legal team.

Charles Gallagher, a St. Petersburg attorney and father of two school-aged daughters, says the 67 school boards across the state are very different from one another. Each district should be given the authority to make the decisions that are best for their communities, he contends.

Craig Whisenhunt, another attorney on the case says the lawsuit is not in favor of a mask mandate, it just gives school boards the control to make that decision.

DeSantis has been firm in giving parents the freedom on whether to send their children back to school in a mask and his executive order supports that. The potential consequence of violating that order is the loss of funds equivalent to each respective school district's superintendent's salary.

So far, 10 school districts throughout the state, including Hillsborough and Sarasota, have defied the governor's mask mandate ban by requiring a doctor's note for students choosing to opt-out of the face covering requirement. Manatee also has a mask rule with a parental opt-out.

"We are confident in the legal basis for protecting parents’ freedom to choose whether their own children wear masks or not," the governor's office told 10 Tampa Bay early on in the legal process.

RELATED: Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit challenging Gov. DeSantis' school mask mandate ban

RELATED: Your guide to Tampa Bay-area school mask mandates

Before You Leave, Check This Out