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Florida Governor Ron DeSantisEva Marie Uzcategui / Stringer / Getty

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MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools.

On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from a group of parents to block a recent order by DeSantis that effectively nullifies masking requirements imposed by school districts.

DeSantis’ executive order directed state agencies to develop COVID policies that would “protect parents’ right to make decisions regarding masking of their children in relation to COVID-19.” Days later, the Florida Department of Health (FDH) announced a rule instructing public schools to allow parents opt their children out of mask mandates.

Eleven parents of children with alleged health issues sued the DeSantis administration last month asking for a preliminary injunction against the governor’s order, which they said violates state and federal non-discrimination laws.

Judge Moore rejected that request in his decision on Wednesday, however, noting that the parents did not pursue administrative options with their children’s schools first, as is required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

“Plaintiffs are required to exhaust their claims under the IDEA before proceeding in federal court,” Moore wrote. “Their failure to do so weighs heavily against finding that Plaintiffs’ claims are likely to succeed on the merits.”

The judge added that the DeSantis administration has “raised legitimate concerns with respect to Plaintiffs’ standing in this case.” He cited the fact that the plaintiffs did not name the Florida Department of Health in their lawsuit, making it “unclear whether the relief sought by Plaintiffs would actually provide redress to any of Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries.”

Moore also noted that some of the plaintiffs’ children have continued attending in-person classes with or without mask mandates. All of the children reportedly have access to virtual learning options, and “there has been no allegation that any of Plaintiffs’ schools have denied Plaintiffs educational opportunities altogether,” Moore wrote.

Judge Moore’s ruling allows the DeSantis administration to continue pursuing sanctions on thirteen Florida school districts that have rejected the FDH masking guidance. The Florida Department of Education has so far fined two of the districts, Alachua and Broward, docking salaries of school board members who approved the illegal mask mandates.

The latest court victory for Gov. DeSantis follows several lower court rulings in recent weeks on his executive order.

A Florida circuit court judge ruled in favor of the eleven parents’ lawsuit last month, temporarily blocking enforcement of the order, though that decision was stayed after DeSantis appealed it on September 2. The same judge again paused DeSantis’ order a week later, before a state appeals court backed the governor’s appeal last Friday.

“Upon our review of the trial court’s final judgment and the operative pleadings, we have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters,” read the decision handed down last week by the First District Court of Appeals. “These doubts significantly militate against the likelihood of the appellees’ ultimate success in this appeal.”

Hours later, the Biden administration also moved against Florida’s mask mandate ban, with the Department of Education (DOE) announcing a civil rights investigation into the policy. The agency had previously opened investigations into similar practices in five other Republican states, including Texas and South Carolina.

The DOE has additionally launched a grant program for school districts financially penalized by state governments due to COVID-19 measures, like mask mandates.

In his announcement last week of sweeping new federal vaccine mandates, Joe Biden vowed to use his “power as president” to push governors who block COVID restrictions “out of way.” “If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said. “Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs,” he added.

Children face extremely low risk of death or serious illness due to COVID-19 and have a 0.00-0.03 percent death rate from the virus, according to data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Seven states have reported no child COVID fatalities at all, the AAP has reported.