Teachers, Students, Parents, and Educational Support Personnel Refuse to Return in Tennessee

Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner Penny Schwinn

Covid-19 is ravaging communities across the nation. Teachers, administrators, counselors, support staff, and students are being asked to return to buildings that cannot possibly meet the safety expectations set by the CDC. Education has consistently been underfunded. Teachers have often met this deficit by pulling from their own shallow pockets. However, teachers and districts cannot meet this challenge without support from Commissioner Penny Schwinn and Governor Bill Lee. We refuse to put ourselves, our students, our colleagues, and our families at risk.

Petition by
Laura Braytenbah
Arlington, Tennessee

To: Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner Penny Schwinn
From: [Your Name]

We are teachers, school administrators, counselors, bus drivers, school nutritionists, school secretaries, custodial staff, students, and parents in the great state of Tennessee and we refuse to return physically to schools this fall until there are no new cases reported in our respective counties for 14 days. There is nowhere teachers would rather be in the fall than in their classrooms with their students. However, with Covid-19 numbers spiking, the cracks caused by years of underfunding education are beginning to show. This is a statement of intent.

There is no evidence to support that teachers or students would be safe returning to schools. Many of our buildings would require retro-fitted HVAC units in order to mitigate the recirculation of air. With cases consistently rising in our state, best practices of teaching cannot be implemented. We cannot simultaneously be in close proximity to our students and socially distance. Our buildings, which are already overcrowded, cannot handle the demands of social distancing.

The best course of action for schools right now is a shift to a virtual platform, which would ensure the safety of students and educators.

We refuse to put ourselves, our families, our colleagues, and most importantly our students at risk of contracting Covid-19. We are calling on Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn to stand up and do what is best for the children and educators of Tennessee.

We demand

1. That schools be moved to a virtual platform until there are no new cases in our respective counties for 14 days.

2. That state-wide testing be waived this year

3. That teacher evaluations be suspended this year.

4. That exam exemption rules be waived for high-school students this year.

5. That schools be held harmless on in-school requirements.

6. That hourly school employees such as bus drivers, custodial staff, nutrition staff, and secretaries be provided with payment during this time.

The only appropriate response to this virus is to stop it in its tracks with appropriate distancing, and that can only be done if school buildings do not open this fall. Failure to do this will be a death sentence to students, educators, administrators, school support staff, and family members that come into contact with them.

Please do what is right for the citizens of Tennessee.