It’s online learning, or death to grandma.
That’s the message teachers in countless school districts want the public to believe as they protest against in-person classes with increasingly elaborate and crowded demonstrations coast to coast.
In New York, throngs of United Federation of Teachers members, Black Lives Matter activists, and social justice crusaders with the Democratic Socialist of America marched shoulder to shoulder through Prospect Park last week carrying caskets that supposedly symbolize the certain death to come when city schools reopen to in-person instruction next week.
— Mind Bloom (@mindbloomyou) August 20, 2020
“We won’t die for the NYC dept. of Education,” one sign read.
“Martyr is not in the job description,” read another.
Video collected by CNN shows hundreds of union teachers shouting muffled slogans through masks as they toted a makeshift coffin and fake guillotine. The blade of the bright yellow head chopper was labeled “DOE,” with “US” painted next to the head restraint.
As part of a protest, New York City teachers held signs criticizing the Department of Education, carried mock caskets, guillotines and skeletons and chanted against the plans to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. https://t.co/uYGgXG9wJq
— CNN (@CNN) August 26, 2020
MORE NEWS: How to prepare for face-to-face classes
“One, two, three, four, close the classrooms, close the door,” teachers chanted. Others held up a skeleton with a sign: “Welcome back to school.”
“These New York City school teachers say they are fighting for their lives,” a CNN narrator explains over footage of several educators shouting with their masks under their chins. “And they’re spending the remaining days of their summer vacation demanding to be heard.”
It’s the same deal in Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and most other places where officials are allowing schools to reopen. In most places, parents have the option between continuing virtual learning or going back to class in person, and many parents are opting for the latter.
In Wisconsin, art teachers are making gravestones with ominous messages like “RIP grandma, caught COVID helping grandkids with homework,” Vice reports.
TODAY IS THE DAY! Students, teachers, parents, & communities across country are rising to #DemandSafeSchools! Art Teachers made gravestones for car caravan paying tribute to those whom undoubtedly will die if profits r placed over health. #EdEquityOrElse https://t.co/fmThzDcy8q pic.twitter.com/Uy5CLMnNuv
— MTEA (@MTEAunion) August 3, 2020
In Michigan, teachers donned shiny gold baseball hats and red shirts to shout about the “body count” lawmakers will be responsible for if they don’t prohibit schools from reopening this fall.
Activist teachers like Makenzie Sato took turns stirring the pot from a podium on the Michigan Capitol steps, the Associated Press reports.
“So here’s my big question: What’s the acceptable body count? I’m really asking,” Sato said.
Protestors shouted back: “Zero!”
“In order to send us completely virtual for the beginning of the year, how many people need to die?” Sato pressed.
The Michigan protestors argued that the risk of contracting the coronavirus is acceptable for medical professionals, grocery store clerks, and other essential workers, but teachers are something else.
“I support nurses and doctors and medical professionals and the work that they’ve done and are still doing,” Amy Watkins, a Belleville middle school teacher, told The Center Square. “Just because I’m scared to go back to the classroom, it doesn’t mean that I don’t value the work you do or the risks you’ve taken. I just don’t think we should take more unnecessary risks.”
Paul Sandy, president of the Michigan Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, told the site teachers understand continued online classes will be bad for students, but the risk of spreading coronavirus outweighs those concerns.
“We freely acknowledge [online education] isn’t ideal for teachers and students,” Sandy said. “But it’s better than no school, and it’s better than family members dying.”
The Center Square put the actual risk in proper perspective:
As of July 17, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says those younger than 18 years old account for “under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.”
CDC guidelines recommend returning to in-person education with precautions to protect all involved.
The CDC cites social, emotional, and academic harm to children associated with closed schools, which disproportionately harms low-income and minority students who are less likely to tap into private tutors, food programs, and counseling services.
“The persistent achievement gaps that already existed prior to COVID-19 closures, such as disparities across income levels and racial and ethnic groups, could worsen and cause long-term effects on children’s educational outcomes, health, and the economic wellbeing of families and communities,” the CDC says.