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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 20, 202004:11 PM EST

Teachers file lawsuit to stop schools reopening

The lawsuit was filed by the state teachers association and it’s supported by Duval Teachers United.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

 The Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit in circuit court in Miami-Dade County on July 20 to stop reopening public school campuses with face-to-face teaching because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state association and six teachers in Central and South Florida filed the complaint against Gov. Ron DeSantis, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Board of Education and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The lawsuit contends the defendants have a duty under the state constitution to provide safe and secure schools.

The lawsuit also seeks a declaration from the court that the defendants are putting arbitrary and capricious demands on public schools through the education commissioner’s unfunded emergency order to reopen schools.

A third count in the suit seeks an order prohibiting the defendants from forcing students and teachers to report to unsafe schools that should remain physically closed during the spike of the pandemic; and ordering the defendants to implement a meaningful online instruction plan with accessible internet connectivity and computers. 

It also asks the court to order that before schools reopen they must have adequate personal protective equipment and other supplies, reduced class sizes, social distancing, staffing and school clinic capabilities in compliance with federal guidelines and other health authorities.

“We support this lawsuit. We don’t believe teachers should be going back to school,” said Terrie Brady, president of Duval Teachers United, the labor union that represents Jacksonville teachers.

Brady said that while Duval County Public Schools plans to offer virtual learning when classes are scheduled to resume in August, whether teachers will be required to return to face-to-face education will be determined by how many students enroll in virtual classes.

She said while some schools already have enough students enrolled in virtual classes, some have no students enrolled, so some teachers could be forced to return to the classroom, despite the pandemic.

“Teachers need to be paid and parents need to go back to work, but a lot has to be worked out,” Brady said.

The school board is scheduled Thursday to release details of Duval County’s return to class, she said, but teachers are concerned about their students and their own health if they have to go back into the classroom before safety from transmission of the virus can be assured.

“Our teachers want to teach and be with their students, but they’re scared. A lot is unknown,” Brady said.

The Florida Education Association is an organization representing more than 140,000 education employees including teachers, educational support professionals, psychologists, counselors, social workers, registered nurses, speech therapists, media specialists, deans, custodial employees, food service employees, technical support professionals and occupational therapists in the public school districts in Florida. 

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