There is a new and very interesting twist to the Florida opt out lawsuit. Parents whose children were retained in third grade solely because they did not take the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) brought a lawsuit. Some districts retained these children who would otherwise be promoted to fourth grade and others did not. It sounds like a basic fairness issue, but it is more complicated. Who is responsible for this policy, the State or the federal government? If only 16 states require third grade retention, why would the federal law be involved?
The case has been heard in the Leon County Circuit Court last week. Judge Gievers was sympathetic to the parents’ concerns but did not make a ruling. She then scheduled a rehearing which now has been cancelled. Instead, U.S. District Court Judge Walker will hear arguments brought by the Florida Department of Education and the six districts named in the suit to move the case from the state to the federal court system. The parents oppose the move to federal court according to the CBS Miami report.
At issue are the equal protection and due process clauses in both the state and federal constitutions. Defendants are the Florida Department of Education and Broward, Orange, Hernando, Osceola, Seminole, and Pasco counties. According to an OPT-OUT Facebook post in the last hour, the federal judge ruled in favor of the parents and returned the case to the circuit court. If so, there will likely be another hearing in the circuit court on Monday. Stay tuned.
Students of government can revel in this case. Federal legislation mandates that annual state assessments must be given to at least 95% of third through eighth graders, but it is up to the states to implement the law. The disputes are about parent’s rights, local control vs. state control, and state control vs. federal control. Or, is it just a matter of passing the “hot potato” in a system that is not well thought out? Somehow the children are getting lost in all of this.