“We believe that the complaint exhibits some significant deficiencies,” said Michael Abel, a DeSantis attorney, in Friday’s opening hearing on the lawsuit filed a week ago.
Abel said questions revolved around whether the parents had legal standing to challenge the governor’s order. He also said the dismissal should be considered on allegations the lawsuit was driven by politics and that a court ruling against DeSantis would violate his executive branch authority.
Cooper said a hearing on the merits of the lawsuit would begin Thursday, if the dismissal bid is deemed groundless.
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Lawsuit says Gov. Ron DeSantis violated Florida’s constitution
The lawsuit accuses DeSantis of violating the state constitution with his prohibition on mask requirements. The constitution guarantees not only safe schools but also grants power solely to local school boards to operate, control and supervise classes within their districts.
The lawsuit by parents from Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Alachua counties argues that DeSantis “wrongfully assumes that state authorities can better determine the local health risks and educational needs of students and teachers.”
One of the parents, Kristen Thompson, of Alachua County, has pushed for a mask requirement, having said her 7-year-old daughter with a tracheostomy is vulnerable to airborne viruses like Covid-19.
“There are a lot of medical and disability reasons why we need other people to mask,” Thompson said. “It’s a social responsibility, as well as this Delta variant is different, it’s more contagious and dangerous. We need to protect all the children here.”
Most Florida counties are going along with mask rules set by the Republican governor, who has dug-in against requirements unless a county at least offers parents an opt-out.
Broward and Alachua, however, are defying DeSantis with their across-the-board mask mandates. The state Board of Education on Friday scheduled an emergency hearing next week to assess compliance by the two counties.
The Tuesday hearing could center on DeSantis’ targeting of the salaries of superintendents and school board members in counties that try to get around his prohibition.
But the mask fight, which has riveted the governor’s attention for weeks, may be carrying a political price. A poll at the beginning of August showed 49% of Floridians disapprove of DeSantis’ job performance, compared with 44% approval, a reversal from earlier this year.
The poll also showed that 62% of Floridians supported mask requirements in schools.
John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport