Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit challenging Florida school reopening order

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Leon County judge has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Florida’s largest teacher’s union challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order that public schools open their doors for in-person learning.

Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson dismissed the motion during a hearing Friday morning.

Last month, the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Department of Education, and Commissioner Richard Corcoran, claiming that the order violates a constitutional requirement for safe and secure schools.

“We are Wuhan, as far as the rest of the world is concerned,” FEA attorney Ron Meyer told the judge Thursday. “We’re going to make a political judgment, apparently, at the state level, to rush to open schools, damn the torpedoes, who cares whether it’s safe or not, and that’s just simply not right and it’s not constitutional.”

The state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“I am denying the motion to dismiss,” Dodson said Friday. “As each side has pointed out, I am required to accept the allegations of the complaint as being true. I’m not in any way saying that the plaintiffs are going to be successful with their case. They still have the burden of proving their case, and based on the procedural status at this time. I’m denying the motion to dismiss.”

The decision comes as the Hillsborough County School District changes plans for the start of the school year. Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis wanted to push back the start of in-person learning by four weeks, but the state rejected the district’s plan on Thursday. The district is now moving forward with just one week of online learning, disappointing many teachers.

Amanda Fessenden, a teacher at Ben Hill Middle School said she was crushed when she heard the online-only plan was down to one week.

“There are teachers in tears every day that are going to that building, they’re scared and they should be,” Fessenden said.

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