Teachers union backs strike if Indiana schools can't reopen safely

The Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents around 4,500 teachers and education staff statewide, said schools should reopen for in-person instruction only if teachers and school staff can meet various safeguards.

Posted: Aug 4, 2020 4:26 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s second-largest teacher organization announced Tuesday that its members may resort to striking to ensure a safe return to school as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents around 4,500 teachers and education staff statewide, said schools should reopen for in-person instruction only if teachers and school staff are provided with adequate personal protective equipment, funding is provided for necessary safety resources such as masks and cleaning products, and cases in the community are under control.

The union did not explain what an acceptable level of infection might be.

If those safeguards aren’t met, AFT Indiana President GlenEva Dunham said union members would consider a strike.

A resolution passed by AFT’s national executive council indicates the union will back local or state-led teachers strikes relating to educator health and safety during the pandemic.

“The members of AFT Indiana will not be threatened or bullied into returning to situations that are not safe,” Dunham said. “Our lives and our children’s lives are at stake.”

She said the union is monitoring school reopenings “day-by-day.” Dozens of Indiana school districts have already reopened for in-person classes, or are planning to in the coming weeks, and Dunham said concerns remain about the precautions in place for brick-and-mortar settings.

Some school buildings don’t have central air, creating a “difficult” situation for students and teachers required to wear masks throughout the school day. In most classrooms, it’s also “virtually impossible” to space desks at least 6 feet apart to keep students socially distant.

“There are things that we’re asking for in order for us to feel safe,” Dunham said. “If they can’t do that, then we ask to go virtual.”

The Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Teachers in Avon Community Schools, just west of Indianapolis, gathered with signs Monday to peacefully protest district schools reopening, she said.

On Tuesday, the school district said it learned that a second high school staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus since classes resumed July 29.

Even with remote learning options available, teachers are still being pressured to teach on two learning platforms without consideration for the strain it places on them, Dunham added. It’s another issue she called on districts to consider when weighing learning options for the new academic year.

Last week, the Indiana State Teachers Association, the largest teachers union in the state, also called for school buildings to only reopen if coronavirus cases are “under control in the community” and that specific protections are in place for students and staff to keep the virus at bay.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 112626

Reported Deaths: 3520
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20832759
Lake10292318
Elkhart6415109
St. Joseph6156102
Allen6029200
Hamilton4724109
Vanderburgh344530
Hendricks2673122
Monroe247436
Tippecanoe226913
Johnson2268123
Clark215056
Porter207845
Cass19329
Delaware188261
Vigo178123
Madison159575
LaPorte137739
Floyd131461
Howard128563
Kosciusko120217
Warrick119936
Bartholomew115357
Marshall98924
Dubois95418
Boone95146
Hancock91143
Grant89133
Noble89132
Henry77024
Wayne74414
Jackson7409
Morgan70038
Shelby66529
Daviess64427
Dearborn63228
LaGrange63111
Clinton59212
Harrison56024
Putnam53710
Lawrence50528
Montgomery50521
Knox5019
Gibson4854
White48114
DeKalb45611
Decatur45439
Miami4263
Fayette41813
Greene41835
Jasper3862
Steuben3707
Scott35610
Sullivan33012
Jennings31212
Posey3060
Franklin29925
Clay2935
Orange28524
Ripley2838
Carroll27013
Wabash2618
Washington2611
Starke2537
Whitley2526
Wells2482
Adams2453
Jefferson2443
Fulton2342
Huntington2223
Tipton21722
Spencer2153
Perry21413
Randolph2087
Jay1730
Newton17111
Owen1651
Martin1640
Rush1524
Pike1401
Vermillion1260
Fountain1182
Pulaski1151
Blackford1133
Crawford1030
Brown1023
Parke941
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland700
Warren391
Unassigned0225

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 145850

Reported Deaths: 4635
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26242603
Cuyahoga17196644
Hamilton12850309
Montgomery7583152
Lucas7187358
Butler5727102
Summit5172249
Marion307247
Mahoning3002279
Warren294748
Stark2771168
Pickaway263444
Lorain227786
Delaware216620
Fairfield203850
Columbiana192180
Licking187562
Trumbull1852131
Clark175938
Wood173772
Clermont165520
Lake158649
Medina143939
Allen138869
Miami138049
Greene137632
Portage109466
Mercer107717
Tuscarawas91620
Erie91244
Wayne90866
Ross86123
Richland80819
Madison78712
Darke76839
Belmont71227
Geauga70547
Hancock67410
Ashtabula65148
Athens6292
Lawrence61618
Shelby5909
Auglaize5709
Putnam55823
Sandusky55520
Huron5337
Union5002
Scioto4746
Ottawa46630
Seneca45314
Preble42213
Muskingum3802
Holmes3777
Jefferson3284
Logan3013
Henry30012
Champaign2943
Perry2889
Defiance28710
Clinton28213
Brown2812
Knox28015
Morrow2522
Washington25123
Hardin25013
Fulton2371
Jackson2344
Coshocton23111
Crawford2276
Fayette2266
Ashland2244
Highland2203
Wyandot20212
Williams2013
Gallia18612
Meigs17210
Pike1670
Hocking1619
Guernsey1578
Carroll1517
Adams1234
Van Wert1143
Monroe10918
Paulding1050
Harrison622
Morgan470
Vinton453
Noble270
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