What the FEA lawsuit ruling means for SWFL schools

Posted at 7:51 AM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 07:51:11-04

FORT MYERS, Fla -- Less than a week before public schools are set to reopen in Soutwest Florida, a Leon County judge has ruled that the state's mandate to physically require them to do so is unconstitutional, halting it at least temporarily.

The controversial emergency order came down last month and threatened to cut funding if districts didn't comply five days a week.

Fox 4 reached out to see how the ruling will impact local school districts. Especially with it coming down just days before schools are scheduled to reopen on August 31.

Here’s the latest statement from Judge Charles Dodson:

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.”

Dodson cited Hillsborough County as an example where the district tried to push back its physical reopen date, following the advice of medical professionals, but was at risk of losing millions.

The judge said his decision will remove that threat of financial penalty. With that threat now gone, the FEA is telling districts to reevaluate whether to reopen.

“What we're asking people to do is proceed with caution. Be guided by the science,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram.

In a statement to Fox 4, Collier County Public Schools said:

Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) respects the Court’s opinion but also recognizes the likelihood of an immediate appeal. Therefore, CCPS will move forward with its plans to safely reopen our schools and give families the choice of on campus instruction, as well as two virtual learning options. CCPS will continue to work alongside the Department of Health Collier County, listen to local medical professionals, and looks forward to welcoming students next Monday.
-Chad Oliver, Executive Director, Communications & Community Engagement for Collier County Public Schools

The School District of Lee County said it's reviewing the ruling. Charlotte County Public Schools said it will be on the Superintendent’s agenda when the district meets this week.