The Broward Teachers Union’s fight to secure work-from-home orders for about 1,100 teachers seems to have ended with an arbitrator’s decision.
The BTU filed a lawsuit against Broward County Public Schools, demanding those teachers with health concerns be allowed to keep special accommodations which were granted in October. The district said only the most seriously ill teachers, about 600, would be allowed to teach from home as the rest were needed in the classroom.
The arbitrator sided with the district.
Schools and COVID
“This is a win for our students,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie. “We recognize the health concerns of our teachers and will continue to balance their needs with the needs of students who are struggling and must be back in a safe and healthy school for face-to-face learning.”
But the arbitrator also ruled that principals are now required to provide documentation justifying their rejections of accommodations for teachers.
“It was a win-win for both, knowing that our teachers can have more detailed conversations with the principals, and I did get a couple of calls last night that some of the principals understood the arbitrator’s award and respect it and a couple more teachers were granted accommodations, so it’s a work in progress,” said BTU president Anna Fusco about the arbitrator’s decision.
A small group of union members, along with parents and a high school student, held a small, socially distant demonstration outside the school board building Tuesday.
“I’m very concerned about the health of our teachers and the health of everyone in our schools, the personnel, I’m concerned about the students, if we’re having too many students come back in, too many teachers come back in, that’s not safe for anybody, and that’s not safe for the community at large,” said Nancy Fry, who has a child in elementary school.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday urged a return to classroom instruction nationally, saying classrooms are safe if the proper protocols are followed.
“I know that my well-being as a student and my progress as a student depends on the well-being of my teachers,” said Fort Lauderdale High School senior Rocco Diaz.
The BTU is especially upset that investigators searched the social media pages of teachers who were demanding accommodations and found several who were not following pandemic safety guidelines.
“To put out so many teachers and support staff’s names that they had accommodations was extremely unprofessional. I think it’s borderline unethical. We’re checking into it, and it’s 100% deplorable and wrong. It was unnecessary,” Fusco said.
The district’s employee policies are explicit and clear that social media pages can be inspected at any time by administrators. It’s also common in any civil litigation for lawyers to investigate a plaintiff’s social media posts.