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Judge lifts stay regarding state order on schools

By NATHAN MAYBERG / nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com - | Sep 1, 2020

Schools in Florida have the option to delay opening based on a decision issued Aug. 27 by Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson.

Dodson lifted the automatic stay on the temporary injunction he issued against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s executive order requiring schools to have a reopening plan approved by the state in time for August.

Dodson issued the temporary injunction on Aug. 24. The Office of Gov. Ron DeSantis appealed the ruling, which meant an automatic stay was issued on the injunction, but Dodson has lifted it.

The Florida Education Association, which is fighting Corcoran’s order based on what it perceives to be a threat to the health and safety of more than 140,000 employees in school districts across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, issued a statement on Aug. 27 stating that school districts are now free to make decisions as to whether to open or close schools based on safety considerations and without the threat of lost funding.

Dodson’s order on Aug. 24 found that the emergency order issued by Corcoran in July regarding the opening of schools was unconstitutional.

In his order on Aug. 27, Dodson stated that the state’s response to his order “drastically misstates what the temporary injunction order did and did not do. It did not order that Florida’s schools statewide be closed. This Court does not have authority to enter such an order. What the order did, for the reasons stated, is require that local school districts be given authority under their individual circumstances to open or close the local schools, based on local conditions.”

Corcoran issued a statement through the Department of Education in response stating “We will not stop fighting and firmly believe we’re in the right. This decision only creates greater confusion for the approximately one million students who have started in-person learning throughout 56 brick and mortar school districts, the nearly 100% of teachers who have joyfully come back to teach their students, and all the parents who made the choice of what was best for their child. We are immediately appealing this decision.”

FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement “the state has been turned back in its attempts to bully our districts.”

Ingram said “the judge clearly saw through the state’s arguments in his order today, but we have no doubt the efforts to silence educators and push a political agenda over safety will continue. We will continue to fight to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone in our schools, and to ensure that districts are free to make the best decisions for their communities when it comes to opening and keeping open physical classrooms and schools while the virus remains a threat.”

Ingram said “the FEA is concerned over reports that information regarding COVID-19 infections and exposures in our schools is being suppressed by the governor’s administration, and concerned educators, parents and school districts are being silenced.”