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Judge Refuses to Dismiss Florida School Reopening Lawsuit

TALLAHASSEE — A judge Friday refused to dismiss a lawsuit by Florida’s teacher union regarding reopening schools for in-person instruction, and said both sides should go through mediation.

What You Need To Know

  • Lawsuit wants school districts to have control over in-person learning
  • Governor pushing to have in-person learning option
  • RELATED stories:

Lawyers for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday asked Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson to dismiss the Florida Education Association’s lawsuit. 

The govenor’s attorneys said the judicial branch has no jurisdiction over state-level education policy decisions like the reopening order.

The union argued the courts are precisely the right venue for the dispute because the state’s order requiring schools to reopen takes decision-making out of the hands of school board members who are independently elected, according to the Florida Constituon.

An expedited mediation hearing must begin by no later than 9 a.m. on Tuesday, August 18 and end by midnight that day.

The judge on Thursday also scheduled heaings for August 19 and 20 to consider FEA’s motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s emergency order.

DeSantis continues to support having an in-person learning option, as this lawsuit makes its way through the legal system. The FEA contends the coronavirus pandemic threatens the health of teachers, students and their families if they return to in-person classes, and its lawsuit calls on a judge to return control of whether schools can reopen for in-person instruction back to local school districts.

Classes are scheduled to reopen soon, and if the association wins, back to school could look very differerent.

Last week, the governor’s team won a change of venue motion from Miami-Dade County to the Leon County Circuit Court.

​DeSantis has quoted an Orange County elementary school teacher when highlighting the role teachers play in student lives.

“She said, ‘As educators, our responsibilities extend far beyond teaching academics, we offer solace to parents in need, we offer a safe haven to students who may otherwise not know calm. We inspired, we assist, we support, we listen, we problem solve,’” DeSantis said.

The governor also said teachers are often the first line of defense in combating child abuse.

“If you look back at calls to the child abuse hotline, and compare April of 2019 when schools were fully in session to April 2020 which is when we had distance learning, you’ll see a nearly 40 percent drop off in calls. That represents a decrease in nearly 20,000 calls,” DeSantis said.

The governor said he is encouraged by trends including a sustained decline in new cases over the past few weeks in Florida.

He is also making it clear Florida is not yet where it needs to be.

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