Fired Up!

Monumental court decision provides a much needed slap in the face to embarrassing state government actions that have transcended humor.


With accounts of Floridians who wrestle with alligators, wield strange weapons in the form of kitchen appliances, and being accused of harboring extreme amounts of sketchy substances, it is no wonder that many are in disbelief over the newest outrageous headline. Florida has never been taken seriously and acts as a comedic relief for the rest of the nation.


Yet, it is hard to find anything laughable about Florida’s battle with COVID. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ poor decisions, especially the one forcing the reopening of schools, have been instrumental in the rising death toll the virus has brought. Despite case numbers reaching 11,458 on July 4, the Florida Department of Education released a mandate on July 6, ordering schools to offer face-to-face lessons, threatening legal and financial consequences should schools refuse to comply.


Left scrambling, school boards state-wide were expected to create concrete plans to handle hundreds of students and angry parents, with weeks until the start of the school year.  It was a disaster, with issues still left to be resolved. Teachers are juggling multiple classrooms, virtual students feel left behind, and as of Sep 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported at least 24,000 new cases from the previous week.


Exposure to COVID is almost inevitable for anyone on school campus. It does not matter how many flimsy partitions are put in place, or that limits are  placed on bathroom visits. One glance at the courtyard reveals many students hugging and holding hands, while in the classroom, masks are seen dangling off ears, laying on the desk, unused. It is humiliating to ask so little of students and staff, and witness blatant defiance. With the bar basically on the ground, Florida has reached a new low.


Classrooms should never have reopened. Medical experts pleaded, giving multiple warnings, but no one listened, and we are paying the price. So far, two students have tested positive at Hagerty as of Aug. 24, while staff members have gone in and out of quarantining. While two may seem small, asymptomatic carriers of the virus continue to walls. It is ignorant to assume that there are no other active cases on campus.


With this level of recklessness surrounding state policy, there was bound to be pushback. In a lawsuit against the state, Orange County and the Florida Education Association fought to block the order made in July in an effort to protect the teachers, faculty and students. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson backed the Florida Education Association and Orange County, finding that the state’s policies on school reopenings undermined the school’s constitutional right to authority in their systems with no justifiable reason. 


Unfortunately, the state is appealing the ruling, meaning the plaintiffs will have to fight to maintain it. The case will move to higher courts, but during this ongoing suit, schools have already begun to start, with some being in their third week of lessons. Despite this, it is important to note that this was a bold move, and one necessary at that.


The challenge presented to the state by the FEA and Orange County is especially pronounced; it shows that there is a clear and present danger that cannot be ignored, and is worth confronting the state and the governor. COVID is real, and with thousands dying every day, it is clear that this is no joke.