Teachers Organize Mass Sick Days, Resignations, And Potential Strikes Over Schools Reopening – Forbes

TOPLINE

Teachers across the country are threatening to not return to school for in-person teaching over Covid-19 safety concerns, with many resigning, retiring, announcing their intention to strike, or planning a coordinated “sick out” as schools face pressure to reopen for the fall.

Hillsborough County Florida Teachers Protest Reopening Schools Amid Pandemic

Middle school teacher Brittany Myers, stands in protest in front of the Hillsborough County Schools … [+] District Office on July 16, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Teachers and administrators from Hillsborough County Schools rallied against the reopening of schools due to health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

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KEY FACTS

Teachers in two Arizona school districts are protesting decisions by local school boards to reopen schools despite not meeting state criteria for levels of community spread, positive testing rate, and hospitalizations for Covid-19, AZCentral reported this week.

In the J.O. Combs district outside of Phoenix, 109 of the approximately 250 teachers in the district put in for absences for the first scheduled day of the reopening, leading the district to reverse its decision to open.

In the Queen Creek Unified district, four teachers submitted resignations following the school board’s vote to reopen, with more reportedly planning to follow suit (there have been 43 classified resignations in Queen Creek since May).

In Michigan, the Detroit Federation of Teachers is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to launch a safety strike over concerns they have about returning to classrooms amid the pandemic.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday that at least 79 educators across Salt Lake County have either resigned or retired early because of concerns over Covid-19 in schools.

The threat of strikes comes as schools in Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas have already dealt with Covid-19 infections upon reopening, as President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to aggressively push for reopening all public schools in the U.S.

Crucial Quote:

“This is not a traditional work stoppage,” said Terrence Martin, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. “This is a refusal of employees to return to an unsafe work environment. Our teachers are ready to teach. We’re excited. We miss our students, we want to continue to engage with them, but we want to do it safely.”

Key Background:

President Donald Trump has previously claimed that 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless.” Earlier this month, during an appearance on Fox and Friends, the president said, “children are almost, and I would say almost definitely, but almost immune from this disease.” Yet, recent scientific research has raised red flags. There has been a 90% increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among children in the U.S., and at least 97,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus during the last two weeks of July, according to analysis by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Researchers in South Korea found that children between the ages of 10 and 19 are fully capable of transmitting the coronavirus within a household. Another study found that children younger than 5 have “between 10 and 100 times more genetic material from the novel coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and to adults.” According to the CDC’s most recent data, the number and rate of cases in children in the U.S. have been “steadily increasing” from March to July 2020. Children currently make up more than 7% of all coronavirus cases in the U.S. while comprising about 22% of the country’s population. 

Tangent:

According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan law prevents teacher strikes, but it’s unclear how a “safety strike” would be interpreted if teachers have health concerns and are willing to work remotely. In July, the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers’ union in the U.S., declared they would support “safety strikes” as “a last resort” if proper safeguards were not in place to protect educators in districts reopening for in-person education.

Big number:

380,174: That’s the number of children who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the U.S. since the pandemic began.

Further Reading:

Days After Viral Pics Of Maskless Students Crowded In Hallway, Georgia High School Reports Nine Infected With Coronavirus (Forbes)

America’s Second-Largest Teachers’ Union Threatens To Strike If Safety Measures Are Inadequate (Forbes) 

Nearly 100k children tested positive for COVID-19 in last two weeks of July (NBC News) 

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