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Judge sides with Florida’s largest teachers’ union in school reopening lawsuit

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Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 3:32 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTSP) - A judge has sided with Florida’s largest teachers’ union in its battle with the state over school reopening plans.

The Florida Education Association says Circuit Judge Charles Dodson has granted its motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s emergency order to reopen classrooms for in-person learning.

“Districts’ hands will not be tied as we continue the fight to protect students and educators in our public schools,” the FEA wrote in a statement.

The FEA has been suing Corcoran and Gov. Ron DeSantis over the emergency order issued in July that mandated all schools open their doors by the end of August. The lawsuit aimed to stop the order to reopen physical classrooms five days a week.

Closing arguments concluded Friday.

On Monday, the court ruled the order was "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."

However, the order will pass “constitutional muster” if the parts deemed unconstitutional are removed, the court said. Thus, the court struck the language saying all schools “must open” and instead left the language saying those decisions must be left up to local leadership.

Attorneys with the FEA argued the executive order violated the Florida Constitution because they say it does not promote a "safe" and "secure" school system due to the coronavirus pandemic. The suit sought to allow local districts to make the best and safest decisions on reopening physical campuses, without the threat of funds being withheld by the state 

Attorneys representing state leaders in favor of the emergency order had argued that 1.6 million Florida students had asked to return to in-person learning and the Florida Constitution requires school districts offer that option.

The union is expected to answer questions Monday afternoon.

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