LEON COUNTY, Fla. — Testimony in the teachers' union hearing against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education continued Thursday morning with a Hillsborough County teacher.
Attorneys representing the defendants, including DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, called on Lindsey Arthur, a special education teacher from Hillsborough County as their first witness.
Arthur explained how challenging it was to conduct eLearning in the last semester of the 2019-2020 school year. Of her 40 students, she testified she only saw about 10 on a regular basis once the state closed schools.
"My students need continuous support. They need somebody sitting with them the entire time," she said.
Arthur explained that her students would often get distracted and couldn't get through more than a 15-minute lesson. She also testified that she feels comfortable and safe to return to in-person learning.
"Our administration has been amazing. Our superintendent is giving updates as much as he can. We got whatever we needed in our unit, gloves, sanitizer, we’ve been given masks," Arthur said.
Attorneys with the defendants also put parents on the stand who described the academic regression and changes in mood they've seen in their children since they stopped attending in-person learning.
"He would throw the iPad, he would become self-injurious or even aggressive towards me because I’m trying to force him to do something that he doesn’t understand why he’s doing," said Laura Pope, the mother of a Palm Beach Gardens teenager with autism.
On Wednesday, Florida Education Association attorneys put Tamara Shamburger, a Hillsborough County school board member on the stand. She's been vocal about her opposition to in-person learning until the transmission rates of the coronavirus in the county drop.
Shamburger addressed the court saying, "I was elected to represent this community. I know this community very well. I’ve lived in this community my entire life and to have Tallahassee really strangle my authority and my rights as an elected board member was extremely concerning."
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Friday at noon.
Attorneys with the FEA are arguing the executive order violates the Florida Constitution because they say it does not promote a "safe" and "secure" school system.
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