Florida judge tempers state mandate that all schools should reopen in-person class

A general view of Charles Rushe Middle School, where teachers, whose unions are against their members returning to school, will hold a car parade protest in front of the Pasco County School district office in Land O' Lakes, in Pasco County, Florida, U.S.

A Florida judge struck down a state mandate Monday requiring “brick-and-mortar” schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, siding with a major Florida teachers union that wants local districts to decide.

The state’s largest teacher’s union, Florida Education Association (FEA), argued that the state’s blanket mandate to reopen all schools was unsafe.

Judge Charles Dodson in the Circuit Court in Tallahassee sided with the union, granting a temporary injunction that adjusted the Florida Department of Education’s emergency order to reopen in-person class. Instead, the decision must be made locally with school boards, the union said on its website.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have said repeatedly that all schools must open, but the decision for student in-person attendance would be up to the parents.

But the judge sided with the teachers union saying that any decision to reopen should be made locally.

“Our Florida Constitution requires the State to ensure our schools operate safely,” Judge Dodson wrote. “Defendants, however, through the Order and its application, have essentially ignored the requirement of school safety by requiring the statewide opening of brick-and-mortar schools.”

With more than 600,000 reported coronavirus infections and more than 10,000 deaths, Florida has emerged as one of the country’s hot spots for the pandemic.

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