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Leon County judge rules state's school reopening order is unconstitutional, state to appeal order

Posted at 2:51 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 08:11:44-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson has granted the Florida Education Association's (FEA) motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s executive order that required all of Florida's school districts to reopen brick and mortar schools in August.

The judge granted the temporary stop to Corcoran's order on Monday, saying the state “essentially ignored the requirement of school safety."

Monday afternoon, the governor's office sent the following statement on behalf of Gov. DeSantis' spokesperson, Fred Piccolo, announcing the state's intention to appeal the decision: “We intend to appeal this ruling and are confident in our position and in the authority of the Commissioner and the Governor to do what is best for our students."

In response to news of the hearing's outcome, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran also sent the following statement via email:

“We’ve said it all along, and we will say it one million times – we are 100% confident we will win this lawsuit. This fight has been, and will continue to be, about giving every parent, every teacher and every student a choice, regardless of what educational option they choose.

"If you are one of the 1.6 million students who have chosen to return to the classroom, a parent, or a classroom teacher that wanted to educate their student in person, we strongly encourage you to call the Florida Education Association and tell them to drop this frivolous lawsuit.”

As part of Monday's decision, Dodson also ruled that Corcoran's executive order is unconstitutional.

"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," he said in a court document.

The ruling acknowledged that the order would pass "constitutional muster” if the unconstitutional parts were removed, so Dodson struck the parts requiring that schools "must open" and left the language that said those decisions will be left up to each individual school district.

“Districts’ hands will not be tied as we continue the fight to protect students and educators in our public schools,” the FEA wrote in a statement.

The ruling would essentially give control back to school districts to determine when it is safe to open brick and mortar schools, without the threat of losing funding.

If appealed, the ruling would be under an automatic stay.

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.