LEON COUNTY, Fla. — The back-to-school legal battle will continue in Florida after a judge ruled the lawsuit over the state's emergency order to physically re-open schools during the pandemic can move forward.
Leon County Judge Charles Dodson denied a motion to dismiss the Florida Education Association's (FEA) lawsuit Friday morning. The group filed suit against Governor Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education, and the Florida State Board of Education "in order to protect the health and welfare of public school students, educators, and the community at large."
The judge ordered both sides to meet for mediation, setting a deadline of Tuesday, August 18 at midnight. Injunction hearings are set for Wednesday, August 19 at 8:30 a.m., as well as Thursday, August 20 if needed.
On Thursday morning, a judge heard comments during a status hearing on the lawsuit brought on by the FEA aimed at stopping districts from opening brick and mortar schools. The judge then set in motion scheduling for future hearings.
Last Wednesday, a Miami-Dade judge sided with the state's attorneys and decided to transfer the case to a Leon County judge. After two judges recused themselves, a third chosen judge will listen to both sides.
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The plaintiffs in the case dropped Miami-Dade's mayor from the suit after a Tallahassee judge took over. Now, with a couple of weeks left before many more districts begin the school year, the FEA hopes this judge sides with them to delay that process. The union believes re-opening schools for a traditional return is not safe for students or teachers.
Back in July, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent out an emergency order saying a traditional return to brick and mortar schools five days a week must be included in every district's reopening plans.
A few counties, including Hillsborough, defied that order. Hillsborough County's School Board agreed to start the first four weeks with distance learning. Corcoran rejected the plan and the district was at risk of losing $23 million. On Thursday, the district announced it changed its plan to go online for the first week of school starting August 24 and allow students who want to return to brick and mortar the option on August 31.