Aug 24, 2020 - Health

Florida judge strikes down order to reopen schools for in-person classes

Ron DeSantis sits in front of a microphone, wearing a suit
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Florida State University on Aug. 11. Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

A Florida judge on Monday struck down an emergency order from the Florida Department of Education that would have required all schools to reopen for in-person learning this month, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Why it matters: Leon County Judge Charles Dodson ruled that Florida had "essentially ignored the requirement of school safety" in pushing to reopen schools and that the state's order overrode school boards' constitutional authority to make decisions for their school systems, per the Times.

What he's saying: "The districts have no meaningful alternative," Dodson wrote, according to the Times. "If an individual school district chooses safety, that is, delaying the start of schools until it individually determines it is safe to do so for its county, it risks losing state funding, even though every student is being taught.”

  • "An injunction in this case will allow local school boards to make safety determinations for the reopening of schools without financial penalty. This is what the local school boards were elected to do.”

The backdrop: The Florida Education Association and Orange County had filed lawsuits against the state in response to the July 6 emergency order.

  • Florida's confirmed coronavirus cases exceeded 600,000 on Sunday, but new infections fell on Monday to their lowest single-day total since June, according to the state's health department.

The other side: "Clearly the FEA hasn’t read nor understands the Florida Department of Education’s guidance, the Emergency Order No. 2020-EO-06, or Florida law," Taryn Fenske, communications director for the Florida Department of Education, emailed Axios in a statement in July, when the lawsuit was first announced.

  • "This E.O. did not order any new directives regarding the requirements of schools to be open, it simply created new innovative options for families to have the CHOICE to decide what works best for the health and safety of their student and family," Fenske said.

What's next: Florida is expected to appeal the ruling, per the Times.

The Florida Department of Education and Miami-Dade County mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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