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Florida Education Association sues governor

By Staff | Jul 21, 2020

The Florida Education Association has filed a lawsuit to compel Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Commissioner of Richard Corcoran to put on hold their plan for reopening the state’s public schools and to implement an online instruction plan due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

The suit, filed in Miami-Dade County circuit court, seeks to restrict the reopening of “unsafe brick and mortar” public schools and to prevent sending students and employees to those schools “during the resurgence of COVID-19 in Florida.”

The plaintiffs also ask the court to make computers and internet activity available to all students for the purpose of online instruction.

In addition, they call for the court to order that schools have adequate personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies for all employees and students. The motion further seeks a reduction in class sizes to comply with physical distancing requirements; the installation of sufficient hand-sanitizing stations; the addition of plexiglass shields where necessary; an increase in staffing; an increase in school clinic capabilities; and for all necessary measures to protect students and staff and minimize COVID-19 transmission.

The lawsuit alleges that a reopening of school during the current COVID-19 pandemic would violate the state’s constitutional requirement for schools to be safe and secure.

“Florida, is now an international epicenter of the lethal and unforgiving novel coronavirus. The virus has no boundaries-including impacting our state’s public schools, a centerpiece of our society and democracy. The Florida Constitution is clear: public school onsite instruction and operations must be opened safely,” the suit states. “The Defendants’ unconstitutional handling of their duties has infringed upon this mandate and requires the courts to issue necessary and appropriate relief. Florida students, parents, teachers, and the public deserve and are constitutionally entitled to the protections needed to assure a lawful and safe reopening.”

The Florida Education Association represents more than 140,000 school employees. One of the plaintiffs is a second-grade teacher who contracted COVID-19, spent two months in the hospital, was placed on a ventilator and into a medically-induced coma. Another teacher being represented has asthma and immune system issues.

While 86% of deaths from COVID-19 have been among those 65 or older, the suit notes that there have been more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19 affecting children and states that children can infect adults who are more at risk. Of those under 18, the suit notes that four people under the age of 18 have died from COVID-19 as of July 14. Locally, 17-year-old Cypress Lake High School student Carsyn Davis died from COVID-19 complications on June 23.

As of July 20, there have been 360,394 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, an increase of more than 300,000 cases since June 1. The suit notes that the state closed public schools on March 17 when there were 314 confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus.

Four different attorneys, from Miami and Tallahassee, represent those filing the suit. The Miami-based law firm Coffey Burlington signed the complaint.