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Judge says Florida order to reopen schools unconstitutional

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —A Florida judge has ruled that a statewide mandate that local school officials resume in-person instruction this month amid the coronavirus pandemic was unconstitutional. The ruling means that that local districts will have the power to decide whether its schools should be physically open or operate in a fully virtual model.

Leon County Judge Charles Dodson on Monday ruled in favor of the Florida Education Association’s challenge of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s mandate.

The Florida Education Association had sued the state after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an order earlier this summer mandating that schools reopen classrooms by Aug. 31 or risk losing funding.

It's unclear how local school boards will react to the ruling. Most Florida school districts already reopened brick-and-mortar locations.

The state is expected to appeal the ruling.

“FEA appreciates that Judge Dodson has granted our motion for a temporary injunction against Commissioner Corcoran's executive order. Districts' hands will not be tied as we continue the fight to protect students and educators in our public schools,” the teacher's union said in a Tweet.

The teacher’s union argued that a July 6 emergency order issued by Corcoran requiring brick-and-mortar schools to reopen five days a week in August violates the state Constitution’s guarantee of “safe” and “secure” public education.

In his ruling, Dodson said the mandate to reopen schools usurped local control from school districts in deciding for themselves whether it was safe for students, teachers and staffers to return.

“The Court finds Plaintiffs have met their burden. The Order is unconstitutional to the extent it arbitrarily disregards safety, denies local school boards decision making with respect to reopening brick and mortar schools, and conditions funding on an approved reopening plan with a start date in August. The Order will, however, pass constitutional muster if its unconstitutional portions are severed. And it would still require local school districts to provide a high-quality education, under the circumstances - the circumstances being this horrible pandemic,” the ruling said.


Article Source - WESH 2 News

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