[guest post by Dana]
This past weekend, Los Angeles Teacher Union voted not to return to in-person learning until teachers can be vaccinated, despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that vaccines are not needed to reopen schools:
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the teachers union of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), announced over the weekend that all teachers would not be returning to classrooms unless their demands were met, potentially costing the LAUSD millions in post-COVID funding from the state.
The decision came following a vote by 24,850 UTLA teachers in which 91% voted to not return to schools. The UTLA had previously said that they would not come back unless Los Angeles County moves out of the purple reopening tier, that all school employees either receive or are offered the vaccine, and that all schools have proper safety conditions upon returns, such as proper PPE and sanitization.
UTLA maintains that not being vaccinated equals an unsafe working environment, with UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz insisting on vaccinations for all teachers before returning.
“This vote signals that members are prepared to refuse to accept an unsafe work assignment, but will instead remain committed to distance learning until the three safety criteria are met,” said Myart-Cruz during the weekend. “Our goal is to create as much stability and consistency for our students. No one wants to open only to have to close again, which is a realistic possibility if safety measures are not put into place first.”
One would think that the possibility of COVID infections is of paramount concern for UTLA members, since that is what we have repeatedly been told. And I understand that concern. Except, just days after the vote, a private Facebook group titled, “UTLA FB GROUP- Members Only,” which has about 5,700 members, posted a warning to members to not post any photos of their spring break vacations:
In one of the posts from the private group, teachers from the union are being asked to not share vacation photos or show that they’re traveling outside of the country.
NEW: In a leaked post from a private Facebook group for UTLA union members only, teachers are warned not to post on social media if they go on spring break vacations because the optics would be bad for them while UTLA is refusing to return to "unsafe" in-person schooling @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/KxQc7k450T
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) March 9, 2021
“Friendly reminder: If you are planning any trips for Spring Break, please keep that off of Social Media. It is hard to argue that it is unsafe for in-person instruction, if parents and the public see vacation photos and international travel.”
This was followed by one member pointing out what should be obvious to all members:
Or better yet, don’t travel on spring break and set an example.
This warning about posting vacation pictures isn’t helping UTLA’s argument that teachers need to remain out of the classroom until their demands are met. The optics are just dreadful, self-defeating, and make it hard for frustrated parents and students to buy into their stated COVID concerns.
We know that parents and students alike are frustrated by the continued online learning situation. You can google any number of reports about school kids becoming depressed, and feeling disconnected, lonely, and withdrawn from being cooped up at home in front of a screen. The lack of socialization and interaction with their peers is taking a toll on young people. You can just as easily google any number of reports about parents trying to cope with at-home learning, technology snafus, managing with more than one student at home, and for any number of these parents, trying to fit their own work into the mix. On the upside, there are also those students for whom learning at home has been a godsend, and are thriving as a result. This report looks at how autistic students are benefitting from an at-home, online learning situation. There are also general ed students who are thriving at home too. You can read about some of these students here, here, and here.
Of note: I was traveling in another county today, and it was almost surreal to hear and see elementary students playing outside on a school field. Masked kids were everywhere, doing what kids do when they’re with their classmates out in the bright sunshine where an expanse of green upon which to race to and fro awaits them.