Parents in school masking suit say they're fighting for the future

'We don’t ever want to be in this position again,' plaintiff Damaris Allen says
Posted at 5:41 PM, Oct 15, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The first major legal battle over the governor's mask mandate ban in public schools is slow going.

Attorneys for the pro-mask parents who brought the suit said Friday the lawsuit remains caught up in the appeals process. It comes after the state disputed a recent circuit court decision.

Judge John C. Cooper ruled in September that the governor exceeded his authority by requiring districts have parental opt-outs.

Alachua County Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon
Dr. Carlee Simon says her district is trying to ease into compliance with state rules.

Cooper ordered the state immediately put its mask mandate ban on hold. Several defiant school districts had a brief reprieve until defense attorneys filed an appeal days later.

"There may or may not be oral argument before the [appellate] court," said attorney Charles Gallagher. "Depends upon if one party requests if or the other."

Gallagher, who is representing the parents, told us he remains confident the appeals court will uphold Cooper's decision and toss the ban.

"At the end of the day, you know, anybody can file an appeal, but there's got to be an underlying legal error by the trial court to prevail on the appeal," he said. "And on the issues that the trial Court ruled on in our favor, we believe those to be very safe and sound issues— the overreach of the governor."

Damaris Allen, Hillsborough County parent in mask mandate ban lawsuit
Damaris Allen remains a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the ban on mask mandates.

For now, the mask mandate ban remains in effect until the appeal court makes a decision. It's a process that may still take weeks.

In the meantime, plaintiff Damaris Allen, a Hillsborough parent, told us her fight was becoming more about the future than the present.

"We don't ever want to be in this position again, where we are having to beg for safety precautions for our kids, beg for things that are guaranteed to us in the constitution," Allen said. "Our kids should be able to have a safe school environment."

Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed the ban through an executive order at the start of the school year and his position hasn't changed since. Parents, he has said, not districts should have the final say on masking.