DAY 3 RECAP: Florida’s largest teachers’ union fights to keep schools closed

Florida Education Association sues state

Closing arguments were presented Friday in a lawsuit filed by the state’s largest teachers’ union, which wants to keep schools physically closed, and the state of Florida.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Closing arguments were presented Friday in a lawsuit filed by the state’s largest teachers’ union, which wants to keep schools physically closed, and the state of Florida.

The state’s largest teachers’ union, Florida Education Association, is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials with the goal of halting in-person learning until it can be done safely.

The arguments ended just before 2 p.m. and the judge asked both side to submit orders on what exactly they want to happen. The orders must be no longer than 15 pages and have to be submitted by 5 p.m.

The judge could then rule on several options: either keep or throw out current emergency order, edit the ones submitted or write his own.

Attorneys for the state called witnesses Thursday, offering a full day of testimony from doctors, experts, parents and school officials. Here’s what happened.

And here’s a recap of Wednesday’s hearing when lawyers for the teachers’ union presented its case.

News 6 reporter Nadeen Yanes posted updates from the hearings:

FRIDAY UPDATES

1:44 p.m.

Attorneys representing the state, governor and education commissioner have rested.

1:40 p.m.

Nathan Hill, who represents the state, says teachers forced to quit, retire or leave because of safety is not an “injury” in the eyes of the law.

“We appreciate this gravity of this problem, but leaving your chosen profession is not an injury that the court can provide in the law,” he says.

1:23 p.m.

David Wells wraps up by saying 1.6 million students have chosen face-to-face learning.

“It’s a critical impact on 1.6 million student across 67 districts,” he said.

1:02 p.m.

The judge interrupts attorney David Wells, who’s representing the state, during his closing.

JUDGE: Under emergency order, what other options did districts had?

WELLS: None. Well, let me say they had options.

JUDGE: But they would lose their funding right?

WELLS: No question. I’m not dancing around that.

12:50 p.m.

“Pouring these kids into (schools) is throwing and packing our most precious human value, packing them into a disease factory,” attorney Kendall Coffey said.

12:43 p.m.

Attorney Kendall Coffey said Dr. Pino, of Orange County, was asked if schools were safe enough to reopen.

“Dr. Pino looked frustrated, like somebody had silenced him,” Coffey said. “The safety advice recommendation essential to constitutionality of this order was evaporated.”

12:42 p.m.

Kendall Coffey, an attorney representing the union, says: “(The school boards) were almost begging the health officials, give me an answer what is safe?”

12:20 p.m.

Billy Wieland, an attorney representing teachers, said the emergency order forcing schools to reopen is unconstitutional and asked the judge to throw it out.

“At the end of the day, we have one question: If we send teachers, are they going to be safe and secure?”

The judge replied, “What happens if I do that?”

Wieland said, “That will return the power to the schools boards to make the decision when it’s safe to open schools.”

12:05 p.m.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON

The second day of a hearing between the state of Florida and the largest teachers’ union continued Thursday and closing arguments from both sides will happen Friday.

About the Author:

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.