Florida's largest teachers union sues state over reopening schools

The state is grappling with a significant surge in coronavirus cases, reporting more than 10,000 new cases Monday alone.
News: School Reopening Protests
A young girl and her mother protest plans to reopen schools in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday.Bob Self / Florida Times-Union via Imagn

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By Daniel Arkin

The largest teachers union in Florida sued Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday over his administration's push to fully reopen all public schools next month — even as the number of coronavirus cases in the state is spiking.

The Florida Education Association accused DeSantis and other state officials of violating a state constitutional mandate to keep public schools "safe and secure." The union asked a state court in Miami to halt the governor's reopening edict, according to a copy of the suit obtained by NBC News.

The lawsuit, filed in state circuit court, names several defendants: DeSantis, state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the state Education Department and the State Board of Education. The legal filing is sure to escalate a nationwide political debate over reopening schools amid the pandemic.

"Gov. DeSantis needs a reality check, and we are attempting to provide one," Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "The governor needs to accept the reality of the situation here in Florida, where the virus is surging out of control."

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Florida is grappling with a significant surge in coronavirus cases, reporting more than 10,000 new cases on Monday alone. Protesters heckled DeSantis during a news conference Monday afternoon in Orlando, with some demonstrators shouting, "Shame on you!"

DeSantis, a first-term Republican, did not immediately respond to a request for comment through his press office.

Corcoran issued an emergency order this month in which he said schools were "not just the site of academic learning" but also key places for "nutrition, socialization, counseling and extracurricular activities." He said reopening schools was crucial to Florida's "hitting its full economic stride."

The order, which applies to the fall academic semester, requires schools to open at least five days a week for all students, subject to guidance from public health officials. DeSantis has recommended that all Florida schools reopen at full capacity. He argued that if they remained closed, parents would not be able to return to work.

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Here's an overview of other coronavirus-related developments making headlines Monday:

  • The coronavirus vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca is safe and shows signs of inducing an immune response, according to early clinical trial results published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet. NBC News' Erika Edwards, Sara G. Miller and Keir Simmons have more details here.
  • President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders met Monday to map out their priorities for another round of federal coronavirus aid, which will decide the future of increased unemployment payments and aid to schools reopening in the fall. NBC News' Rebecca Shabad, Kasie Hunt and Julie Tsirkin covered the meeting.
  • In other Washington news, Trump said Monday that he will resume doing regular coronavirus briefings as the White House struggles to settle on a message — and a role for him — as cases surge across the country, NBC News' Shannon Pettypiece reports.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled Monday to hard-hit Georgia. New York has sent personal protective equipment, test kits and contact tracers to new hot spots across the South, where several states report alarming surges of the virus. NBC News' Gabe Gutierrez spoke with Cuomo during his travels. You can watch the full interview on the "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt" tonight at 6:30 ET/5:30 CT.
  • The release of Christopher Nolan's "Tenet," a mind-bending espionage thriller, has been postponed indefinitely after having been delayed twice, according to news reports. The film was seen as a bellwether for Hollywood's attempts to revive theatrical moviegoing and begin a financial rebound.