Florida Teachers Union Sues to Stop Reopening Schools in the Fall

Image by Holly Dornak from Pixabay 

The Florida Education Association (FEA) has filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis, suing to delay the reopening of schools and to not allow in-person classroom teaching in the fall. The state issued an emergency order on July 6 to reopen public schools for five days a week in August despite concerns about the possible spreading of the novel coronavirus. The lawsuit was filed on Monday, July 20 in state circuit court in Miami against not only the governor but also against Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Board of Education and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The Florida Department of Education sent out an emergency order, issued by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, that requires all Florida Public K-12 school districts to reopen brick and mortar schools as an option for families five days a week.

The largest teachers union in Florida has petitioned to have the order be called a violation of Florida’s Constitution and the state official’s actions (and their inactions) declared unconstitutional. The suit also seeks a declaration from the court that the state’s demands are “arbitrary and capricious” and seeks to prohibit the enforcement of the order. The FEA also states in the lawsuit that the mandate does not allow the school districts enough time for effective planning, even if distance learning is offered to parents as an option.

To view a copy of the lawsuit, please click on the Florida Education Association’s link.

FEA leaders called upon those that are concerned for the safety and well-being of staff and students alike to come join them in sending a letter to Governor DeSantis, asking him to please reconsider opening schools up again in the fall.  They’ve created a letter that families can fill out and send to show their support. Nearly 25,000 signatures have been able to be acquired by the FEA as of Tuesday, July 21. The target amount of signatures is 25,600.

Photo: Florida Education Association Facebook

The union said in a survey of its members that 39 percent of teachers said they will not go back to school if they’re forced to be there five days a week. The FEA lawsuit is seeking for instruction to be held online until it’s deemed safe for in-person instruction.

The School District of Lee County was among districts that were looking at a hybrid model for reopening, in which students would attend in-person classes part of the week and virtual classes on the other days. After the DOE order, districts had to abandon that plan. Most, including Lee County, are now offering several options for returning to school, including in-person classes five days a week or allowing students to learn from home.

The Lee County school superintendent on Monday said he is recommending that the district start date be moved from August 10-August 24 or 31. The school board will discuss the issue at its Thursday, July 23 meeting.

Several school districts across the Tampa Bay area have voted to delay the start of the school year by a few weeks after consulting with medical professionals. Hillsborough County Schools recently partnered with USF Health and Tampa General Hospital as a way to track the virus and determine what is best for students and staff.

The Florida Education Association also has a list of what needs to happen once the community spread of COVID-19 is below the 10% target number, including:

  • The ability to keep class sizes small enough for proper social distancing of six feet
  • The ability to quickly check temperatures of all students and staff
  • The ability to limit access to school campuses to only students and staff
  • The ability to reduce the number of students on buses to allow for social distancing
  • The ability to have touch-free hand sanitizer stations in every classroom and office, as well as multiple stations in cafeterias and other large common areas, plus refills that are readily available
  • The availability of plenty of soap and paper towels
  • The ability to sanitize school buses after each route and entire schools every two hours
  • The ability to change lunch routines to allow for the proper social distancing of six feet
  • The ability to properly train all students and staff on ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

It is not yet clear if a judge will be able to make a decision about the lawsuit with school start dates only weeks away.