Florida judge rules against parents of children with disabilities in school mask case again

Rejecting arguments by parents of children with disabilities, a federal judge has refused to reconsider a decision that backed Gov. Ron DeSantis in a battle about student mask requirements in schools.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore released a 34-page decision on Sept. 15 that denied a request for a preliminary injunction against an executive order that DeSantis issued July 30. The executive order led to the Florida Department of Health issuing a rule that required districts to allow parents to opt out of student mask mandates.

Matthew Dietz, an attorney for the parents who filed the lawsuit, requested this week that Moore reconsider the decision and pointed, in part, to a revised Department of Health rule issued Sept. 22 that eased restrictions on students who have been exposed to people with COVID-19. Under the revised rule, those students are not required to quarantine if they are asymptomatic. The motion for reconsideration said attending school has become “even more dangerous” for children with disabilities, who are more susceptible to serious illness or death from COVID-19.

But in rejecting the motion for reconsideration Thursday, Moore reiterated a key part of his Sept. 15 ruling that said children with disabilities have different circumstances and “require unique solutions.” Moore wrote Thursday that issues such as the revised Department of Health rule “do not change that the court's finding ‘a case-by-case review of each plaintiffs' concerns would likely yield more effective solutions for each individual child than would a blanket injunction of (DeSantis’ executive order).’”

Moore also reiterated his Sept. 15 position that the plaintiffs should have pursued administrative claims before filing the lawsuit. But Dietz has argued that going through the administrative-claim process would be “futile” because of the amount of time it would take as the school year moves forward. The lawsuit, filed in August in federal court in Miami, contends that the executive order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws designed to protect the rights of students with disabilities. In the motion for reconsideration, Dietz pointed to rulings in similar cases in South Carolina and Tennessee that contrasted with Moore’s Sept. 15 decision.

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