The Florida Education Association, the union that represents more than 125,000 public school teachers in Florida, announced on Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Department of Education. This comes after rising cases of COVID-19 in Florida failed to stop leaders from ordering public schools to reopen next month.
During a Zoom meeting, Florida’s largest teacher union outlined its grievances in regard to the mandate and answered any questions about reopening for parents.
“It’s just eerie what we’re hearing on the state level and what we’ve been hearing on the federal level,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association.
“The command of Governor DeSantis to reopen all Florida schools before it’s safe is reckless. It’s unreasonable, it’s unnecessary and it is a false choice.”
As explained by FEA President Fedrick Ingram, the main reason for the lawsuit was the lack of funding, infrastructure and guidance from the state when it comes to reopening.
“We don’t want to be the petri dish for America, in fact, we need a survival kit, we need our state government to step up and lead in these issues,” Ingram said.
For the past couple of weeks Florida has set records related to the virus as it reaches nearly 5,500 deaths. The state has been labeled an epicenter in recent weeks.
The lawsuit argues that the state order is unsafe during the pandemic and that it violates the state constitution. It demands that the state implement a plan to provide instruction online until it is safe to reopen the schools.
During the virtual meeting, Ingram made it clear that there was a lack of leadership in the state.
“The governor needs to accept the reality of the situation here in Florida, where the virus is surging out of control,” Ingram said.
In a prior press conference, DeSantis said that even though it was the Department of Education that required schools to reopen, he believes options should be as flexible as possible.
“These are unique circumstances,” DeSantis said during a news conference Monday. “Let’s be flexible. Let’s try to give parents the choices. Let’s try to do what’s best for kids.”
DeSantis said that he did not believe that children were the “primary vectors of spread,” but wants the school districts to work with their communities to take necessary precautions.
The lawsuit also named Richard Corcoran, education commissioner, as one of the defendants.
Earlier this month Corcoran ordered that all schools were to reopen at the end of August before late retracting and allowing school districts to submit their own reopening plan. The mandate was issued to provide flexibility for parents who would have to work during those hours.
“We cannot be reckless with those who pour their souls into these kids’ lives every day,” Ingram said Monday. “That’s unfair.”
School districts will have until the end of the month to submit their reopening plans to the state Department of Education.