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Photo: Paul Hennessy/Sopa Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida parents, including those of students with disabilities, have filed legal challenges to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order barring mask mandates in schools.

Why it matters: The lawsuits, filed in state and federal court, come as Florida is experiencing a surge of new COVID cases, largely driven by the Delta variant.

Driving the news: DeSantis issued the order late last month, directing the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to release emergency rules protecting parents' rights to decide whether their children will wear masks.

  • The order also said that "if the State Board of Education determines that a district school board is unwilling or unable to comply with the law, the State Board shall have the authority to, among other things, withhold the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds ... and declare the school district ineligible for competitive grants."
  • A group of parents filed suit on behalf of 15 children with disabilities in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, arguing that the ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • “The Governor’s most recent executive order preventing school districts from putting protections in place for students ... has tied the hands of school districts from acting and made it impossible for school districts to provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment,” according to the complaint.

What they're saying: "They are framing this as a parent choice issue when this is really a public health issue," Charles Gallagher, an attorney involved in one of the state lawsuits, said, per CNN.

  • “Requiring masks at school will protect our children. Currying favor with narrow political interests will not,” said Rev. Elvin Dowling, who is running for the congressional seat in Florida's 20th District, and filed a separate lawsuit as a parent of three school-aged children on Friday.

Go deeper: DeSantis issues order barring Florida schools from mandating masks

Go deeper

Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Parkland shooting victims' families settle suit with school district

A makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Families and survivors of a 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, reached a $25 million settlement in their lawsuit against the Broward County school district Monday, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Why it matters: The deal was reached in the suit over the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the school district won a Florida Supreme Court ruling that could have capped damages at $300,000 in total without approval from the state legislature, AP notes.

Top Democrat predicts "nastiness" for Florida's 2022 legislative session

The Florida Capitol. Photo: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nothing about Florida's current political discourse would lead you to believe that our representatives are nearing something resembling peace and understanding — and that's not changing anytime soon.

What's happening: State Rep. Evan Jenne, the House Democratic caucus' co-leader, expects a "knock-down, drag-out" legislative session next year, full of "nastiness and controversy" ahead of the 2022 midterms, per Florida Politics.

Civil rights groups sue Oklahoma over law banning critical race theory

The Oklahoma state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Photo: Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A group of civil rights organizations is suing Oklahoma over a law that restricts discussion of race and gender in public schools.

Why it matters: The law is one of several Republican-led attempts to ban critical race theory (CRT), a concept that links racial discrimination to the nation's foundations and legal system.

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