Lawsuit aims to stop Gov. DeSantis, education leaders from reopening of schools

A lawsuit has been filed against Governor Ron DeSantis, state education leaders, and Orange County Public Schools and their leaders on behalf of a mom who’s a labor and delivery nurse with two immune-compromised students at home, Monique Bellefleur. 

“I do want my kids to go back to school to do face to face, right now I don’t think it’s safe for them to do so,” Bellefleur said.

The other plaintiff is Kathryn Hammond who teaches at Southwest Middle School.  She’s also a mom of a soon to be kindergartener, an immune-compromised toddler and she’s pregnant with a third child.  FOX 35 News asked Hammond if she’s planning on teaching the first day of school from a classroom. 

“I absolutely cannot. If that requires me to be in a building seeing 125-130 students a day, that’s not a risk I can take for my own health and my own family,” Hammond said. 

On Friday, Orange County Schools voted to give parents the option of sending their kids back to school five days a week or attend class virtually.  Gov. DeSantis said in a news conference on Monday that children need to be back in classrooms next month.  He also responded to a question about being named in this lawsuit during a news conference Monday afternoon. 

“If you have somebody that may have an underlying health issue they absolutely need to be given the option maybe they teach or work virtually maybe they take a sabbatical. Those folks who are higher risk, you need to absolutely have accommodations for without questions,” DeSantis told reporters. 

Hammond tells FOX 35 News that, at this point, teachers in Orange County are not getting that choice, but rather are being surveyed. 

“As a teacher, we’ve been asked what our preferences would be. I put that my preference is to work from home. But we don’t know that will be an option yet. That’s all a variable considering which students register for which option,” Hammond said. 

Orlando Attorney Billy Wieland, who is representing the plaintiffs along with Jacob Stuart, filed this lawsuit as an emergency injunction, so he expects a hearing soon.  He also made a point of mentioning that the hearing would not be held in a courtroom, saying it would be in a virtual since courtrooms aren’t open. 

FOX 35 News reached out to Orange County Public Schools asking for comment on the suit.  Their spokesperson replied by saying that it’s OCPS’s policy not to discuss pending litigation.