A Leon County Circuit Judge has ruled in favor of the Florida Education Association in a case against the forced reopening of brick and mortar schools by the State Department of Education.
Judge Charles Dodson has stricken the following language from the DOE’s order 2020-EO-6, “Upon reopening in, August; all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students, subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health.”
The judge stated that “The Order is unconstitutional to the extent it arbitrarily disregards safety, denies local school boards decision-making with respect to reopening brick and mortar schools, and conditions funding on an approved reopening plan with a start date in August. The Order will, however, pass constitutional muster if its unconstitutional portions are severed. And it would still require local school districts to provide a high-quality education, under the circumstances – the circumstances being this horrible pandemic.”
The ruling states, “If an individual school district chooses safety, that is, delaying the start of schools until it individually determines it is safe to do so for its county, it risks losing state funding, even though every student is being taught. This policy “runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s long-standing admonition that the government ‘may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected interests.”
The judge also noted that, “Plaintiffs presented convincing evidence that State health officials were instructed not to provide an opinion on the reopening of schools. Local school boards asked State health officials for their opinions as to whether it was safe to open their schools. They would not give any opinion.”
The Florida Education Association responded to the ruling on its Facebook page.
“The FEA appreciates that Circuit Judge Charles Dodson has granted our motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s executive order. Districts’ hands will not be tied as we continue the fight to protect students and educators in our public schools.”
The Alachua County Public Schools also responded on its Facebook page.
“If the state appeals, which is almost certain, the judge’s decision will automatically be stayed. We’ll keep you posted.”
See the complete ruling here.