Group sues state leaders, Paulding County Board of Education over 'reckless guidance' in reopening schools

The Georgia Association of Educators just filed a lawsuit against Governor Brian Kemp, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, and several school district leaders.

The group said the suit is in response to officials' "reckless guidance” in reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GAE's President Lisa Morgan told FOX 5 News that teachers are scared to speak out because they fear retaliation. She also said the safety plans are not being followed on campuses and fail to meet CDC guidelines.

"Once teachers were back in the buildings, we saw how things were really being implemented," she explained to FOX 5's Brian Hill.

The organization believes decisions made by some leaders are putting students and staff in danger.

Those named in the lawsuit also include the entire Paulding County Board of Education as well as Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods.

"We want class sizes that are such that social distancing and the six feet of distancing can be implemented. We want masks to be worn in all our schools," Morgan detailed when asked about what they want to see happen.

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We've previously told you of multiple school districts having to temporarily close facilities after COVID-19 infections on campuses.

Morgan said staff believes "the honesty and transparency is not there when there are cases within the building when there are children and adults quarantined."

FOX 5 News reached out to the defendants in the suit.

Governor Kemp's office and Paulding School Administrators would only say they don't "comment on pending litigation."

Superintendent Woods sent us the following statement:

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgia Department of Education issued detailed guidelines for school districts in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health. I have encouraged school districts to mandate masks through the dress code.

"Unlike several states, Georgia schools retain the authority to remain fully virtual instead of being required to offer in-person instruction. When publicly shared photos made it clear that there were issues with Paulding County Schools’ COVID-19 response, my staff reached out to the Paulding superintendent directly, and I issued a public statement making it clear this was not acceptable.

"Additionally, we have advocated for Georgia teachers and schools, standing against the push for high-stakes testing and hyper-accountability that could force schools to open for in-person instruction before they are prepared to do so.

"At the end of the day, the Georgia Constitution provides for the local control of public schools. There is often a misconception that the State School Superintendent has unilateral authority over all operations of public schools, and that is simply not true. The GAE complaint is asking the Georgia Department of Education to exercise authority we do not have.

"Respectfully, if GAE had reached out to me to sit down and seek solutions to common challenges, I would have done so – just as I have always done so – but they did not.

"I have spent the first months of the school year visiting schools all over the state and speaking directly with teachers on the frontlines. I am always open to the feedback of our teachers and education organizations, but those conversations can’t take place if the first time I hear of a concern is in the pages of a lawsuit.

"I am hopeful this complaint can be resolved in a manner that is in the best interests of all teachers and students in our state.”

However, Morgan disagreed on the lack of conversation between them.

"We discussed some of these concerns before we went back into schools and that did not solve the problems."

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