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Fla.'s Largest Teachers' Union Sues Over 'Unsafe' School Reopening

Photo of woman cleaning a table in a classroom
JON SUPER / ASSOCIATED PRESS
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The largest teachers' union in Florida filed a lawsuit Monday that seeks to block requiring schools to reopen buildings for in-person classes in August.

Along with educators and parents, the Florida Education Association (FEA) filed suit with the support of national affiliates the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association against Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education, the Florida State Board of Education and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

“Gov. DeSantis needs a reality check, and we are attempting to provide one,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram in a statement. “The governor needs to accept the reality of the situation here in Florida, where the virus is surging out of control.”

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García also released statements criticizing the governor.

DeSantis told reporters last week the Florida Department of Education should not dictate local school-district decisions, even though the department issued an emergency order that says schools must reopen in August unless health officials say otherwise.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued the order July 6, on the same day President Donald Trump tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST REOPEN THIS FALL!” The order said all school districts must reopen brick-and-mortar schools at least five days a week starting in August, unless local and state health officials direct otherwise.

Duval County Public Schools released a revised back-to-school plan on July 14 that includes classroom options. But that plan also now appears to have a question mark by it.  WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union reported Duval's school board opted to delay a vote on the plan until July 23.

“The push to physically reopen schools full time without any precautions or new resources, and, most importantly, amid a skyrocketing COVID-19 surge, ignores science, safety and basic humanity," Weingarten said in a statement Monday.

Weingarten alleges DeSantis has failed to make schools safe.

“If he won’t look out for students’ and teachers’ best interests, we will,” Weingarten said.

The FEA said the lawsuit has been filed in in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida in Miami.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.