Added liability protections for Florida schools advances

Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 6:06 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - Legislation approved by a Senate committee Tuesday seeks to protect schools and universities from being held liable for decisions made during the pandemic.

The bill has bipartisan support and would prevent lawsuits related to schools and universities going virtual.

There have been multiple class-action lawsuits filed against Florida colleges and universities, seeking the return of tuition and other costs and fees for semesters during the pandemic.

But legislation moving in the State Capitol would stop those suits in their tracks.

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“These colleges did the best job that they could,” said Senator Joe Gruters, who is sponsoring the education liability bill.

Some expressed concerns the language is too broad and would prevent students from recovering money spent on meal plans and housing.

“These are products that were never delivered that were paid for,” said Jacksonville Trial Attorney Curry Pajcic.

Gruters said his intent is to protect tuition.

“Unfortunately, there are people that wanted the virtual instruction and they don’t want to pay. So this will hopefully clear things up,” said Gruters.

The Governor has expressed frustration with universities not returning to full in-person learning.

We asked if Gruters felt the liability protections may disincentivize universities from getting back in the classroom.

“If I was a university administrator I would certainly be listening to whatever the Governor had to say,” said Gruters.

Democrats added an amendment to the bill, allowing parents of K-5th grade students the option of holding their child back.

“Because parents were the ones over the past year who were really administering a lot of the child’s education,” said Senator Shevrin Jones.

And while the bill will still require standardized testing for K-12 students to gauge their academic progress, neither schools nor students will be penalized for the results.

The legislation passed unanimously, but the bill sponsor said changes will likely be made before final passage to clarify some of the concerns raised during the committee.

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