Teachers' Unions About-Face on School Re-openings, but Students Will Still Suffer

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Union leaders like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who has suddenly become America’s biggest school reopening cheerleader, have refused to “follow the science” for over a year now as it has become more and more clear that COVID-19 presents little to no risk to school-aged children and their communities.

Instead of fully re-opening, many schools have begun so-called “hybrid” schedules.

One has to wonder: what is really behind the continued resistance to full re-openings? United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the social justice organization that also just happens to sometimes hold itself out as a labor union for teachers, might have an answer.

It has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with student health or safety.

We already knew that of course, but Randi Weingarten’s sudden about-face lifted the mask on teacher unions’ real priorities.

But now that they’re being dragged kicking and screaming back to the classroom, they’re letting parents and students know exactly how they feel about it.

A recent email from a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teacher to a parent regarding their 10-year-old, autistic son revealed what the union considers an acceptable “hybrid” learning environment:

  • “Will your child be able to wear a facemask for a minimum of 3-plus hours?”
  • “Will your child be able to keep the social distancing and refrain from touching friends?”
  • “There will not be handball, climbing on the apparatus, kickball, checkers, Legos, or any other games your son/daughter are used to playing with one another.”
  • “I imagine the school your child will be returning to will be much different from the one they remember, and it will be much more restrictive.”

Apparently, UTLA’s version of “reopening” looks nothing like the real thing. “Hybrid” school is not really school at all. And it gets worse. Here is a full rundown of the pathetic excuse for “education” currently being pushed by UTLA and LAUSD:

  • Students attending hybrid classes spend only three hours a day in one classroom with an “advisory” teacher who does not actually teach them anything. Rather, the advisory teacher will be responsible for policing the children and ensuring they don’t dare bring an unauthorized kickball or Barbie doll to class.
  • While in “class,” the students will be seated at separate desks spaced six feet apart, masked, wearing noise-canceling headphones while they “attend” separate Zoom classes delivered by remote teachers. Sounds like just the social interaction kids have been missing.
  • Students are not allowed to bring food to campus, or to have lunch together. Students are not allowed to play together or have recess. Assumedly students are still allowed to look at each other, but we aren’t quite sure. Has Dr. Fauci opined on this yet?

There is no substantive difference between remote Zoom “instruction” at home and hybrid “instruction” at a school building. So why “re-open” at all?

Because hybrid instruction is a false equivalency that allows UTLA and LAUSD to represent to the public that schools are “reopened,” while keeping kids virtually chained to the desks with their eyes glued to their computer screens and their behavior more easily policed.

This is not an education, it’s a temper tantrum, and an affront to the values of the people of California and Los Angeles.

We have learned a lot about COVID-19 in the last year.

We’ve learned that the health risk to children, and the risk that children carry the virus to vulnerable members of their communities, is extremely low.

We have learned that schools should reopen as soon as possible.

We’ve also learned that remote education has a detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of children and can damage their long-term aspirations and economic prospects by stunting their academic progress. The results have been disturbing — suicidal thoughts and actions, substance abuse, social and emotional problems, health issues, academic stagnation.

The list goes on. And Los Angeles parents are fighting back.

A group of brave LAUSD families, who remained anonymous for fear of retaliation from UTLA, have brought a lawsuit seeking to get the schools fully reopened. Unfortunately, their application for a temporary restraining order to immediately get their children back in class was denied by a California judge who was convinced that the availability of “hybrid” classes in the near future would cure their legal injuries and end their case.

But these children, who already spent a year being locked out of their classrooms, continue to suffer under the hybrid model.

And it’s by design.

Families and students deserve more but parents have finally had enough. And until they get what they deserve, they will continue to fight LAUSD, UTLA, and anyone else who stands in the way of their children’s well-being.

Timothy R. Snowball is a litigation counsel with Freedom Foundation, a national nonprofit that specializes in exposing and battling abuses by government employee unions. The Freedom Foundation is representing desperate Los Angeles families pro bono.