Gov. DeSantis and other officials try quickly to get rid of a court case over reopening FL public schools

By: - August 5, 2020 5:54 pm

School entrance sign. Photo, CD Davidson-Hiers

While educators and families prepare for the new school year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials hope to quickly get rid of a lawsuit over the reopening of brick-and-mortar schools, court records show.

The Florida Education Association, which initially filed the lawsuit, isn’t likely to back down.

The case involves a Department of Education emergency order, declaring that the July order on reopening schools and getting students back into classrooms does not ensure students a safe and secure learning environment, thus violating the Florida Constitution.

The FEA wants to invalidate that order, which would let districts make decisions locally on whether brick-and-mortar schools should open or instruction should be online.

Meanwhile, defendants named in the lawsuit — Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education, and the Florida Board of Education, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez — have filed motions to dismiss the case.

That motion to dismiss by DeSantis and others says that the FEA lawsuit is a “misguided” attempt to forbid all in-person instruction for students, limiting instruction to online learning.

The DeSantis motion to dismiss also says that the FEA and other plaintiffs “seek a judicial order that would close all schools throughout the state and usurp the authority of the Legislature, the Executive Branch, and Florida’s 67 school districts to direct education policy in Florida.”

In another issue, DeSantis and other defendants claim the lawsuit should have been filed with Leon County in the state capital, rather than Miami-Dade County, therefore frustrating “the goals of orderly, efficient, and economical government and risk conflicting judicial rulings in different jurisdictions,” court records show.

Right now, hearings are taking place over Zoom conferences.

The FEA responded, saying in the lawsuit that “by effectively commanding all school districts – including Miami-Dade’s – to open their school facilities this month, despite the fact that Miami-Dade is one of the nation’s hot spots for COVID-19, with more than 124,000 total cases reported in the county through today, the state of Florida has disregarded its constitutional obligations to ensure safe and secure public schools.”

In addition, the FEA and other plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary injunction, asking the court to rule that the emergency order is temporarily invalidated and ensuring that schools are not forced to reopen without proper protective measures.

The motions are expected to be discussed this week.

Some school districts are expected to reopen next week amid the pandemic, and many teachers have said they are concerned about safety in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Meanwhile, thousands of children will be learning online, while others plan to attend a traditional school.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.