Tuesday evening, the Duval School Board voted to reach a settlement with Amy Donofrio's legal representation, which included the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Details from the settlement weren't immediately public, but in a press release, the SPLC said Donofrio's contract was not renewed. Part of the lawsuit initially aimed to reinstate Donofrio's teaching position at Riverside (then Lee) High School.
“Teaching is not just my career, it’s my life, my heart. Being unable to return to my classroom this fall devastates me beyond what I can fully articulate,” Donofrio, who has worked in education for 13 years, said in a statement.
Her lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida by the SPLC and private employment law firm Scott Wagner and Associates, P.A. in April. It sought to reinstate Donofrio to her teaching position and requested a court order banning school policies that prevent educators from exercising their First Amendment rights by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and "advocating for anti-racist curricula and policies."
At the time, Duval Schools reassigned Donofrio to paid, non-teaching duties. The district said she was being investigated for "several matters" but never elaborated.
Last week, School Board members were a part of a private litigation meeting to discuss details surrounding the potential settlement.
The school district's legal representative, attorney Stephen Busey, called Donofrio's case "unusual" compared to other teacher versus school district lawsuits. He suggested moving forward with the case could take years to resolve and could cost several million dollars.
Board members largely voiced wanting to be able to accept a settlement and move forward. Still, not everyone was ready to do that.
Charlotte Joyce said a "speedy resolution is not always the best resolution," adding that she wanted to see Donofrio's case move forward in court.
But Busey said the trial wasn't scheduled to begin until 2023 and could become a lengthy process if it were to advance to the Supreme Court, something he said was "a possibility."
"Though we know we haven't done anything wrong, these are taxpayer dollars," board member Warren Jones said.
Donofrio's case made waves nationally as the teacher spoke out about not feeling like she could support her students, particularly her Black students. She has been praised in the past for her work with the EVAC Movement group for at-risk students.
Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran referenced the teacher during a speech about how teachers were "indoctrinating" their students. Corcoran even falsely — at the time — claimed he had Donofrio terminated, though she was still a paid employee when he made those remarks.
"Ms. Donofrio’s case is part of a pattern of attacks targeting educators’ efforts to support Black students and oppose racism," the SPLC said.
The SPLC said Donofrio's teaching contract — which, like others' operated on a year-to-year basis — was not renewed, but that Donofrio was only notified on June 30, the last day of her contract. The Times-Union has reached out to Duval Schools for comment.
"What happened to me is symptomatic of a much bigger problem, and that’s the extreme ends Duval County Public Schools has shown it’s willing to go to uphold racism," Donofrio said. "Administrators and school board members’ cowardly failure to stand beside Black students is exactly why I knew I had to.”