A Miami-Dade judge has dealt a blow to teachers fighting the Florida Department of Education’s order requiring public schools to offer in-person lessons this month.
During a hearing Thursday morning, Judge Spencer Eig ruled the case needed to be moved to Leon County to comply with Florida’s home venue privilege. The provision entitles state agencies to be sued in the county they’re headquartered to save time and tax dollars.
"This court, having heard from all parties, finds that the law of home venue privilege does apply to this case," Eig said. "It is an issue of statewide importance-- crucial statewide importance."
The Florida Education Association had filed the suit in Miami-Dade, saying its case was strongest in the COVID hotspot. The move to Leon will now likely delay the union’s effort to void the order, which it claims is unsafe and therefore violates the state constitution.
FEA attorney Mark Richard called the venue change a delay tactic by the governor's legal team.
“Every chance to slow this down they have taken," said Richard. "Every chance to rush schools to be open — without looking at the science— they have rushed that way as well.”
While the transfer will be expedited, court officials have yet to set dates for the continuation of the suit in Leon County. Meanwhile, at least four Florida school districts will begin class on Monday.
The governor and ed commissioner, both defendants in the case, have dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous.” The state leaders believe in-person lessons are needed as an option for children who struggle with virtual learning.
Districts risk losing funding if they fail to comply.