Florida teachers sue governor, education department over plans to reopen schools

The Florida Education Association, a union representing 145,000 educators, filed a lawsuit Monday against Governor Ron DeSantis and the state Department of Education in an attempt to stop the reopening of schools in late August. The lawsuit argues that Florida’s plan to reopen schools is unsafe due to the coronavirus pandemicand therefore violates the state constitution, reports CBS Miami.

“The Mandates of the Florida Constitution ‘[a]the law must establish adequate provisions for a uniform, efficient, safe, and high-quality system of free public schools, “the lawsuit says.” The unconstitutional handling of Defendants’ duties has violated this mandate and requires the courts to issue the necessary and appropriate relief. “

The lawsuit also names Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez as defendants.

“The governor must accept the reality of the situation here in Florida, where the virus is spiraling out of control,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement. “You need to embrace the evolving science. It now appears that children 10 years and older can transmit the coronavirus as easily as adults.”

A recent study in South Korea suggests that while children ages 0-10 can transmit the virus at a lower rate than adults, those ages 10-19 appear to transmit the virus at least as efficiently as older adults.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks holding his face mask during a press conference on July 13, 2020.

Chandan Khanna / Getty

The lawsuit requires Florida “to develop and implement an online instruction plan targeted at all children and that Internet connectivity and computing devices are available to all students … so that they can meaningfully participate in virtual instruction until it is safe to reopen physical schools. ” “

It also requires that when schools reopen, stock up on personal protective equipment for employees and students, comply with CDC guidelines on physical distance, and “install enough hand sanitizing stations.”

Florida had switched to remote learning as the coronavirus spread across the country. But on July 6, Corcoran issued an emergency order to reopen the schools in late August. After facing a backlash, Corcoran said individual school districts could come up with their own plans to reopen if they felt it would not be possible to return to in-person learning. He said his order was designed to offer parents and school districts “complete flexibility” about returning students to classrooms, according to CBS Miami.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho had previously said it is still too early to decide whether or not schools should reopen when the new school year begins. He said in-person learning would not occur as long as the county remains in phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan, reports CBS Miami.

Florida has become one of the new epicenters of the pandemic in the United States. more than 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus five days in a row last week. As of Monday night, the state had more than 360,000 confirmed cases and at least 5,072 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.