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Judge Cooper ruled against Florida mask mandate bans. What’s next?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Students walk from iPrep Academy on the first day of school in Miami.  A Leon County judge has supported the strict mask mandate that Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and eight other school districts have adopted despite threats from the DeSantis administration. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Students walk from iPrep Academy on the first day of school in Miami. A Leon County judge has supported the strict mask mandate that Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and eight other school districts have adopted despite threats from the DeSantis administration. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published Aug. 30
Updated Aug. 30

Florida’s school mask mandate battle hit a fever pitch at the end of last week as Judge John Cooper ruled against the state’s blanket ban of such actions, sparking immediate backlash from Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration. Can this week take it to the next level? Or will some other issue jump to the forefront? Read on for the latest on this story and more Florida education news.

Cooper used the same “Parents’ Bill of Rights” law that DeSantis relied upon to find the governor had overreached. The state promised to appeal, and also sent non-compliance letters to eight more school districts as the judge reviewed his findings.

The ruling prompted another round of calls for mask requirements with limited exemptions. A Brevard County School Board member renewed her request for an emergency meeting to discuss the possibilities, Florida Today reports. The session begins at 9:15 a.m. today, WKMG reports. • The Charlotte County school district also expected to take another look at the issue, Florida Phoenix reports. • The Lee County School Board called an emergency meeting for today, the Naples Daily News reports. • The Bay County School Board planned to review its mask rules at its Sept. 14 meeting, the Panama City News Herald reports. • There’s also talk about the subject among central Florida school districts, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Not that the state has been fighting the issue over private or charter schools, but ... The Diocese of St. Petersburg announced it would move to mandatory masks in its schools, too. • The Oasis charter schools in Lee County adopted a 90-day mask mandate shortly after the judge’s ruling, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Some districts with mask mandates held off on enforcement. Sarasota County schools begin imposing their rule today, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Maybe there’s a middle ground in all this debate. The Manatee County school district is looking into creating some mask-only and mask-optional classes, the Bradenton Herald reports. • Some South Florida students said they don’t see what the big fuss is about wearing masks, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

What’s driving the discussion? The delta variant is spreading quickly. Tampa Bay area school districts reported more than 10,000 cases in the first three weeks of classes. A year ago, it took until February to reach that level. • Brevard County schools saw a record number of cases on Friday, Florida Today reports. • Duval County schools experienced a 58 percent increase in cases, the Florida Times-Union reports. Upset by the district’s slowness in reporting cases, Duval parents have begun spreading the word themselves, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Experts say Florida teens are fueling the state’s virus resurgence, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

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Beyond the positive case increase, school employee COVID-related deaths are being reported. Two Miami-Dade County district workers who were not vaccinated recently died, WPLG reports. • A Polk County educator passed away after being hospitalized with the illness, WFLA reports. • Two Indian River County teachers died in the past week, WPTV reports.

It’s not just Florida. Parents in several states are suing over masks, USA Today reports.

More coronavirus concerns

Dance, at a distance. All Orange County high schools have moved their homecoming dances outdoors because of the pandemic, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Schools continue to seek ways to help students who fell behind last year. Experts are exploring different approaches for the best possible outcomes, the Seattle Times reports.

Other school news

Boys in mini-skirts, girls in spaghetti straps. Duval County teens launched a protest against their school district dress code, which they deemed sexist, the Florida Times-Union reports.

After the storm. Escambia and Santa Rosa county schools will be closed today in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, reports. Okaloosa County schools also will be closed, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Wanted: Bus drivers. The Polk County school district increased driver pay in hopes of filling its vacant positions, WFTS reports.

From the police blotter ... The principal of Lee Virtual School was arrested on a battery charge, WINK reports. • An Indian River County high school student was arrested on charges of violence and disorderly conduct after she allegedly argued with an administrator and trashed two offices, WPEC reports.

Before you go ... About a year ago we shared a video of pre-teen Nandi Bushell challenging Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl to a drum-off, in which he declared the girl the winner. A couple of days ago, she appeared on stage with the band for the first time. Check it out.

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