Florida Supreme Court denies school superintendent's petition

By Marian Johns | Apr 17, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court has denied the petition of suspended Okaloosa County superintendent of schools Mary Beth Jackson to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision over her suspension. 

According to the April 16 court filing, Jackson asked the court for a writ of quo warranto to challenge the respondent Gov. DeSantis' exercise of power. On Jan. 11, DeSantis suspended Jackson through an executive order citing grand jury reports that stated Jackson "failed in her obligation to ensure the safety and well being" of the county's students. 

The grand jury had reviewed allegations involving a teacher who was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison that special needs children in the school district were being abused. The allegations included special needs children being kicked, grabbed, denied food and sprayed in the face with vinegar. The grand jury report noted that although it did not indict Jackson on criminal charges, it "lacks confidence" in her abilities to remain as superintendent. 

Jackson, who was elected in November of 2012 and then reelected to another four-year term in November 2016, argued in her petition that Gov. DeSantis exceeded his authority by suspending her based on alleged conduct that took place in her previous term as superintendent. However, the court disagreed and concluded that "Jackson's petition is based on faulty premise."

The court found that DeSantis' suspension order alleges incidences and "omissions" that happened during Jackson's current term and was based on her "mismanagement of the school district." The court also noted that the grand jury found "systemic failures" in Jackson's overseeing of training and supervision of school district personnel.

The court also stated that Gov. DeSantis' action "leaves no doubt" that Jackson's failures went on through the time of her suspension in January and that there was "no need for us to address the constitutional validity of a hypothetical suspension order" that alleges facts having to do with Jackson's previous term.

The court concluded that Jackson's writ of quo warranto is denied. 

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