The legality of reopening schools for in-person teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to be confirmed. After the Florida Teachers Union won their lawsuit in August, it is now in the process of being appealed.
The Florida Education Association began a lawsuit against several Florida officials and boards, including Governor Ron DeSantis and Richard Corcoran, the Florida Commissioner of Education, in July.
The lawsuit states that the teachers’ union pursued legal action to “safeguard the health and welfare of Florida public school students, educators, staff, parents and the general public.”
The Florida Education Association began in 1886 and has grown to over 140,000 members to date. It is Florida’s “largest labor union of professional employees.” The union consists of “teachers, education staff professionals, higher education faculty and graduate assistants, retirees, education students, [and] early career educators.”
The ongoing lawsuit claims that the reopening of public schools within Florida presents safety issues for staff and students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, many counties have reopened their schools for in-person instruction.
When the case went before a judge on Aug. 24, the Florida Education Association was victorious. Charles Dodson, a judge for Leon County, found the order by DeSantis to reopen schools “unconstitutional to the extent it arbitrarily disregards safety, denying local school board decision making.” Additionally, the court noted that the order will be deemed constitutional once its “unconstitutional portions are served.”
Conversely, the defendants’ motion for appeal argues for a dismissal due to “the Plaintiffs’ lack of standing, the court’s lack of jurisdiction over their non-justiciable claims, and the fact that granting the relief they seek would violate the separation-of-powers doctrine.”
The case has now been appealed and will go before a court of appeals. The defendants are requesting the case go before the 1st District Court of Appeals as they wish for prompt finalization of the suit.
Despite the large number of students who have returned to their public schools for in-person instruction, it is still unclear if DeSantis had the power to require all counties to reopen their schools.
The pressing issue has fueled countless opinions from parents to teachers to school nurses.
Those who believe the order to reopen schools was constitutional argue for the parents’ right to make decisions regarding their children’s education.
Corcoran expressed his opinion in a tweet on Aug. 28: “Win for Florida’s parents to choose what education works best for their students!”
On the other hand, individuals arguing against the reopening of schools for in-person instruction claim that it is unsafe during this pandemic.
A witness in the lawsuit stated that “because of his pre-existing condition, his doctor advised he will likely die if he contracts COVID-19. If he is forced to return to school, he will be risking his life on a daily basis. The cost of life of teachers and their family members cannot be readily calculated.”
Whether or not Florida schools will be permitted to remain open is still uncertain. The future of the lawsuit will decide numerous conditions for students.
Featured image: A school building. Unmodified photo by NefariousDishwasher used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/2ShygZk)
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