Florida third-grade retention lawsuit heads back to state court
After a brief foray in federal court, where the defendants sought to move the case, a challenge of Florida's third-grade retention law is headed back to state court.
Lawyers for both sides told the Gradebook that the federal judge on Friday remanded the case back to Leon Circuit Judge Karen Gievers after the plaintiffs amended their complaint to remove federal issues.
"The hearing Monday before Judge Gievers will go forward," said Michael Barfield, a paralegal in attorney Andrea Mogenson's firm. "I believe we will get an adjudication on Monday as to whether these kids will go to the fourth grade."
Parents in six counties, including Hernando and Pasco, have argued that their children were held back in third grade because they did not take the state reading test or performed poorly on it, regardless of their classroom grades. They have noted that many districts handled the promotion decisions differently, and that the Department of Education issued confusing guidelines on whether a state test score was needed to have access to other good cause exemptions permitted in state law.
Gievers held one evidentiary hearing already, but scheduled another after the defendants complained they had not been properly served and did not have time to respond. She scheduled the next hearing for Monday, but that was temporarily canceled after the venue challenge.
"We're happy we have defeated those efforts," said Barfield, noting that state courts often take up challenges to state laws. "Now we have a lot of work to do."
Florida was the first state in the nation to strictly enforce its rule that third graders who could not read on grade level would repeat the grade. Several states have since adopted that model.