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Florida appeals court suggests parents do not have legal standing in school mask lawsuit

In a recent opinion, which is not any final decision, the appeals court indicated it agreed with DeSantis' administration on several issues.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida appeals court on Wednesday indicated parents who are locked in a court battle with the state over its mask mandate ban may not have legal grounds to challenge the executive order.

Florida's 1st District Court of Appeals filed a new opinion explaining its decision to block Judge John C. Cooper's removal of an automatic stay that temporarily allowed mask policies across the state. In September, the appeals court allowed the state to reinstate its stay while the case went through the appeals process. 

Cooper's decision to remove the stay came after he decided Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis crossed his constitutional authority by issuing the executive order directing the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to issue emergency rules “protecting the rights of parents to make this decision about wearing masks for their children.”

In its latest opinion, which is not any final decision, the appeals court indicated it agreed with DeSantis' administration on several issues. One of those being that the parents who filed the lawsuit did not have enough standing to challenge the order. 

"The appellees are a group of parents and public-school students who suffered no injury from any alleged "usurpation" of authority, so they did not appear to have established an injury in fact that could support standing," the court wrote.

RELATED: Feds move to block Florida from withholding funding from school districts over mask mandates

RELATED: Florida withholds funding from 2 school districts over mask mandates

On top of this, the court also said the parents lacked legal standing because "the executive order did not appear to take any state action against them."

At the center of Cooper's ruling was the state's Parents' Bill of Rights, which gave parents the final say on whether or not they would allow their children to be subjected to COVID-19 safety protocols. The appeals court said the parents did not argue that the order violated the new state law, but Cooper's decision did. 

"While the Parents’ Bill of Rights undoubtedly played a role in the governor’s issuance of the executive order—and was even pleaded as an affirmative defense—the appellees never sought relief in their complaint based on an alleged violation of the Parents’ Bill of Rights," the court wrote.

The DeSantis administration has been facing mounting court battles over its ban on mask policies. 

Recently, The U.S. Department of Education asked an administrative judge to block the state of Florida from slashing federal aid money to two school districts over their coronavirus mask mandates.  

Federal education leaders filed a complaint with the agency’s Office of Administrative Law Judges Thursday seeking a cease and desist order against Florida as well as a ruling that the state is in violation of federal law.  

The filing comes a day after Alachua and Broward counties said the state reduced their overall funding because they received federal grants meant to offset state penalties for their mask requirements.

The penalties are the latest development in an ongoing feud between the White House and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration over coronavirus regulations.

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