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Governor DeSantis' executive order preventing mask mandates in school unconstitutional, legal experts say

"It absolutely destroys local rule,” said attorney John Phillips. “As Floridians, he wouldn’t want Washington DC to determine what Floridians do, right?”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Just after the CDC updated its masking guidance recommending universal masking for teachers, staff and students, Governor Ron DeSantis issued the executive order to allow parents to decide whether their children will wear masks at school.

This order has been very controversial as to whether it’s actually constitutional.

“DeSantis says this is a Tallahassee issue that covers all of Florida, and we disagree,” said Jacksonville Attorney John Phillips. “Shouldn’t school districts get to decide? Shouldn’t local municipalities get to make a decision about their own people?”

Article 9, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution gives school boards authority to operate public schools. Phillips said the executive order takes that right away from school boards.

”It absolutely destroys local rule,” Phillips said. “As Floridians, he wouldn’t want Washington DC to determine what Floridians do, right?”

With school just days away, Agata Gardner, a mother of two, is counting on the Duval County School Board to follow CDC guidelines.

“We’re just begging the school board to stand up,” Gardner said. “We know it’s hard, but we need their help.”

The order threatens to withhold state funds from any school boards that require mask usage during the upcoming school year, which may potentially be a setback.

“That’s not his funding to take away,” Phillips said. “That is constitutionally granted to innocent kids.”

Gardner fears the money will have a strong impact on the board's decision.

“We are trying to send them the message it’s time to stand up,” Gardner said. "Funding or no funding, what is more important is lives.”

Multiple law offices state-wide are expected to challenge the executive order—including Phillips.

“It’s not easy taking on the governor and using the Florida Constitution in a way that its never been used before, but it’s important, because local rule matters,” Phillips said.