Re-Opening Florida’s Schools: What Rights Do Parents & Teachers Have?
On July 20th, 2020, The Florida Education Association, a union representing 145,000 educators, filed a lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s Department of Education in an attempt to stop schools from reopening at the end of August. The lawsuit argues Florida’s plan to reopen schools is unsafe due to the coronavirus pandemic, and therefore violates the state constitution. But while that is decided in court, what should parents, teachers and those who are employed by the Department of Education know about their rights?
First of all, parents have certain rights to keep their kids out of school. For example, parents can enroll their kids in virtual school, which is pretty much the same as a brick and mortar school, absent the brick and mortar. There is no tuition and Palm Beach County honors this system. Furthermore, parents can also enroll their kids in home school and let the district know that their children are being taught via home school. Therefore, in no way are parents legally obligated to physically send their children to school if they are not comfortable with the situation as the coronavirus continues to spread.
Regarding employees of the schools, if teachers, janitors or other employees of the school district working within the school system at a brick and mortar school decide that they do not want to come back for one reason or another, each case would need to be evaluated individually. However, there is unequivocally a possibility that an employee could be terminated if they chose not to come back to their position once schools reopen. Many employees may have pre-existing conditions or be of a certain age that would increase their chances of becoming gravely ill, or worse, should they contract the virus, but that will need to be examined on a case by case basis.