The Phoenix Flyer

Crucial school reopening lawsuit isn’t headed yet to FL Supreme Court

By: - August 28, 2020 5:21 pm

Florida First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. Credit: Michael Rivera, Wikimedia Commons

Following hearings and lower court rulings, a crucial school reopening lawsuit appeared to be headed to the Florida Supreme Court.

But that didn’t happen.

As of Friday, the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee declined to send parts of the lawsuit on school openings to the Florida Supreme Court.

The appellate court declined to classify the case as requiring “immediate resolution by the Supreme Court.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other state officials in the lawsuit had been moving for an “immediate resolution” on key issues on the reopening of public schools, which would involve the highest court in the state.

Those issues included a temporary injunction to allow local districts to make decisions on reopening schools during the pandemic. The injunction is a reference to an emergency order related to a statewide mandate about opening schools.

The Florida Education Association and other plaintiffs in the lawsuit were okay about moving the matter to the Supreme Court, court records show.

But the First District Court of Appeal on Friday reinstated an automatic stay in reference to the temporary injunction. That means the emergency order is still in place and schools are expected to open brick-and-mortar schools at least five days a week.

The appellate decision comes at a time when more Florida schools are opening in the new 2020-21 academic year, and COVID-19 cases are rising. The Florida Department of Health on Friday reported 615,806 infections and 10,957 deaths related to COVID-19.

This lawsuit has garnered national attention over the issue of who’s in charge of public schools.

Local school boards believe the Florida Constitution gives them power to make decisions on reopening schools. But the state has mandated, in an emergency order signed by Corcoran, that brick-and-mortar public schools must be open at least five days a week. The Trump administration has praised Corcoran for his approach to reopening schools in Florida.

The lawsuit has support from the American Federation of Teachers, a nationwide teacher union, and the NAACP, which joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs last week, as well as dozens of local teacher unions in Florida.

Many worry that the lawsuit comes too late to make a real impact on Florida’s school districts. Most of Florida’s 67 school districts will open their schools for in-person instruction by Monday, August 31.

Even as the court case continues, school districts are adhering to the expectations of the emergency order, and Florida families may choose between in-person instruction and online learning for their children during the pandemic.

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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.