Who Cares about the Kids? Not the Teachers’ Unions.

Did school teachers abandon their students during the Spanish influenza? I suspect they were made of tougher stuff than teachers today. — JAB

by Kerry Dougherty

They hate it when we call them teachers’ unions. But when organizations act like trade unions, throw tantrums like unions, put their own needs before the people they serve, you’re looking at a union.

Make that unions. Plural.

In Fairfax County there are three: the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, the Fairfax Education Association and the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators.

According to a piece in The Washington Post headlined, “Teachers in Fairfax Revolt Against Fall Plans, Refusing to Teach In-Person,” these three groups are acting in concert to force Fairfax County students to miss another year of school.

Maybe two years.

Heck, Fairfax County schools may never reopen since these teachers are demanding that all learning be virtual until a Covid-19 vaccine is available.

Someone tell these Mensa members that there may never be a vaccine. And even if one is developed, many parents may not be eager to serve up their children as guinea pigs for a drug that’s rushed to market as teachers are stomping their feet and refusing to come out from under their beds.

After Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled his insane rules for reopening schools two weeks ago — before he flip-flopped and said they were not mandates — the Fairfax County school superintendent sent out a survey giving parents and teachers two options for the fall: Keep school closed and have 100% distance learning or have children in class two days a week and let them continue to experience the joy of online learning the rest of the time.

Both options are absurd, but Northam’s nutty regulations made five-days-a-week in class seem impossible.

The teachers in Virginia’s largest school district are taking no chances on that second option. They are determined not to go back to their classrooms.

“Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools,” said Tina Williams, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “They fear for their lives, the lives of their students and the lives of their families.”

Geezus. Are these educators comfortable enough  to read and interpret data that show that not only are children not at risk from the coronavirus but they aren’t carriers and there isn’t a single documented case of a child infecting an adult?

Apparently not.

Are they also too uncomfortable to be aware that distance learning was a freaking disaster? Ironically, nowhere was this more evident than in Fairfax County where 189,000 students were the victims of a school district entirely unprepared for online learning.

When Northam terminated in-person classes in mid-March, Fairfax gave kids a month off before rolling out a glitchy program that was vulnerable to hacking and other problems.

Distance learning didn’t work there or anywhere. That’s not just my opinion — although common sense would tell you kids need to be in class with actual teachers — The Wall Street Journal documented the mess that was American education this spring.

Oh, it’s worth noting that the petulant behavior of Fairfax teachers flies in the face of advice now being offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP notes that children are not at risk from Covid-19 and not carriers.

The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.

The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.

This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.

Who suffers when teachers are too afraid to return to the classroom?


The very people these union members are supposed to serve.

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37 responses to “Who Cares about the Kids? Not the Teachers’ Unions.

  1. I’m not terribly sympathetic to these teachers. Doctors and nurses put their health at risk treating sick patients in hospitals every day. Service workers risk exposure. I dare say that many teachers refusing to teach at school put themselves at risk every day in different settings.

    • Needlessly. Big word. Health workers have to have contact to treat patients. What “service worker” has to have contact that has not also been able to modify that contact to minimize their risk. Examples please.

  2. My observation is that almost universally, people are more cowardly than they were in 1918, 1958, and 1968, In each of those pandemic years, the virus in play was dramatically more deadly than the vaunted super-virus we know as COVID-19 and the world did not retreat into universal quarantine. The 1958 and 1968 influenza pandemics were, on a population adjusted basis, more than twice as deadly as coronavirus, with no government mandated shutdowns of schools and businesses. Only in the polio pandemic was there a mass shutdown of businesses – public swimming pools, because contact with raw feces was believed to be the mode of transmissions.

    I lived through two of the influenza pandemics (1958 and 1968) and can assure you on the basis of first hand experience that anyone suggesting mass shutdown of schools or businesses would have been thought insane or evil. The United States can no longer refer to itself as the “home of the brave” with a straight face. Our airwaves are filled with advertising (propaganda) messages and memes glorifying cowardice. Courage has been replaced by cowardice as a cardinal virtue.

    • The US population in 1918/1919 was 104 million. 550,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu.

      “At least one American in four fell sick from the Spanish Flu. In various cities, such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, public meetings were temporarily banned, and churches, theaters, and saloons shut their doors. The death toll mounted, morgues grew crowded with corpses, coffins became scarce, and some mass burials occurred. Emergency hospitals were set up in town halls, schools, and churches. Many industries and stores went on half day schedules. And health authorities established quarantine regulations for varying periods.

      The influenza occurred frequently in children from age five to 14; however, sick persons between 20 and 40 years of age were most likely to die from it (about 550,000 Americans died).” Quote from:

  3. two good reads…..
    What Parents Can Learn From Child Care Centers That Stayed Open During Lockdowns: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/24/882316641/what-parents-can-learn-from-child-care-centers-that-stayed-open-during-lockdowns

    France orders all pupils back by Monday as European schools prepare for full reopening: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/06/20/france-orders-pupils-back-monday-european-schools-prepare-full/

    • Everybody should read that NPR story on the child care centers that stayed open, catering to known “front line” workers. You won’t see that report on the fear porn media outlets. Kinda pleased with NPR for doing it!

      • wait … I thought NPR was part of the biased left wing media, no? I’m sure I’ve read it right here in BR…. 😉

        let me guess.. they’re left wing and biased when they write something not liked… but theh’re gift from heaven when write “good stuff”? 😉

  4. Don’t lump all of us educators together. I’m a high school librarian and ready to go back in the fall.

  5. Finally, a refreshing piece from Kerry that is an opposite of her usual mostly thoughtless and completely self-baked opinions. Switch the adverbs.


  6. Terrific piece Kerry.

  7. Day care centers are often private sector – and so are some schools – and one would think those schools would have more flexibility and ability to open with less folderol but to this point, I’ve not seen or heard private schools advertising that they are re-opening to 100% in-person teaching.

    A lot of this stuff – we hear one side of it – it’s important to check the other side.

    None of the European and Asian schools are re-opening to the way they were before – they all have COVID-19 restrictions including masks – which I wonder, given the current politics if some kids and parents will refuse them…

    The problem is we simply do not know but some want to go ahead anyway – they want to take the risk – but others will not.

    Some want the schools to say – ” come back to work or you’re fired”.

    Union or not, we’re playing with the loss of many teachers if their concerns are not addressed. Under-staffed schools will not be places of learning – they’ll more like warehousing of the kids.

    • The courage of REMFs is amazing. Perhaps, someone who has such strong opinions, whose single contact with a child is a grandkid or two, could help by proctoring children in the distance learning portion. Open up her den and internet connection.

    • Actually, the Diocese of Richmond announced Friday that Catholic schools would reopen this fall with all students in class five days a week. Once Northam flip-flopped on his school reopening “rules” a number of private schools started making similar plans. As long as the public schools suck their thumbs about reopening, enrollment at these private institutions is likely to boom. That’s my prediction and I’ll let you know if I’m right in a month or so.

      • These teachers unions remind me of the air traffic controllers union back in the very early 1980s. It appears that there are snakes in this public school union wood pile, like there were with the air traffic controller’s wood pile back then. They need to get busted and fired if they refuse to work. There is no reason these schools should not open. None.

        To close schools ruins parents ability to work whether they work at home or not, and it is doing grave harm to kids, emotionally, educationally, and socially. We’re being a nation of frighten neurotics, as childish as our young children.

      • Well, Catholics have always been hell bent on getting to heaven, especially in helping others along.

  8. We have grandkids in the schools as well as a parent/teacher. If teachers have to work full time, but the kids are part-time, it presents a problem for day care of the students. The parents could utilize the grandparents during the day, which was a pre-COVID option. Now we grandparents are unemployed re: the child care help job due to the need for social distancing. So there are problems with partial attendance approach.

  9. “They hate it when we call them teachers’ unions.”

    https://www.fcft.org The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers hates it so much so that they use the word “Union” only 8 times on their home page.

    The Fairfax Education Association calls themselves a union on their “About” page.

    Now, The Association of Fairfax Professional Educators probably doesn’t like being called a union because it is not even close to a union with an all volunteer staff; they do not lobby nor bargain. They are similar to the IEEE, the ACM, AIEE, or the AIAA providing discounts on such things as insurance, and publications.

    Ignorance is always on display.

  10. NPR is like the clock that has stopped.

  11. sounds like “outcome based” news… eh? When the story is good… we forgive … at least for that one time…. then back to the whack-a-mole.

  12. Has Northam left open a situation where public schools will teach virtually while private schools teach in person? Poor kids with two working class front line parents who may (or may not) have access to adequate computers and network will learn over the internet while home alone. Meanwhile, rich kids of work from home parents will go to school for in-person instruction?

    That certainly doesn’t seem like a pathway to equity.

    And … King Ralph never thought to speak with the union leaders before issuing his proclamations … umm … recommendations … umm … suggestions?

    • I’ve agreed not to refer to him that way anymore, but if you do, it’s Wise King Ralph.

      And, Larry, I’m sure NPR sent a reporter out to do a story on how it hadn’t been working at the day care centers, and they were rife with outbreaks, and then was honest enough to report the story that resulted. I often had editors send me out to confirm their biases, and came back with stories that didn’t. Probably didn’t help my career….

      • do we have a double standard for media where when we like their stories they’re “media” but when we don’t they’re lying, biased media?

        How many times have I read that NPR is a left wing biased outfit?

        • But Larry, NPR does ooze left wing bias from every pore. The fact that they get it right sometimes does not refute that point. Even a stopped clock, etc. etc.

          • so how do you know they got it right this time if you say they ooze bias?

            However, they make an excellent point about day care for front-line workers that other media – including right media apparently did not also report on specifically but many stories of hospital workers having to live apart.

            We do need more info on what protocols were used

          • Read my post. i didn’t say they got it right “this time” . I said that they get it right “sometimes”

          • “sometimes”, eh… I could say that about FOX… geeze…

          • Whole other subject. Again, you wander into “And so’s your momma” reasoning. by doing so, you wander way off topic.

          • my mistake – I thought we were talking about media getting it “right”……. sometimes.. 😉

    • Can you show me other state governors who are doing this better than Northam?

      I have said frequently that Northam is not at the top of the leader rankings but I also think if he is to be condemned than he should be demonstrably worse than his peers – and I’m just not seeing that.

      That leads me to believe the critics are not really about substance but politics.

  13. Although I had much the same reaction upon reading about the Fairfax teachers and I tend to agree that the schools should be open, Kerry, as usual has used hyperbole to state her case. She is not one to deal with nuance or shades of gray.

    She states point blank that children aren’t carriers. Well, she apparetly knows more than all the other experts. She cites data to back up this assertion. However, if one dives into the link she provides, one can find this statement in the summary of the findings of one report: “The role of children in passing the disease to others is unknown, in particular given large numbers of asymptomatic cases.”

    Not satisfied with contradicting her own evidence, she plunges ahead to misrepresent the Academy of American Pediatrics. She says, “The AAP notes that children are not at risk from Covid-19 and not carriers.” As evidence of that, she provides a quote from the Academy that has no mention at all of whether children get COVID or are carriers. What does AAP actually say about the role of children transmitting the disease. This is from its website:
    “Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.”

    Notice that there are no absolutes. Children MAY be less likely to spread infection.

    For someone who was supposedly a journalist, I would have expected better.

  14. Kerry goes well beyond hyperbole and I am surprised at this point that you would still being expecting better. When she talks about teachers “refusing to come out from under their beds”, she makes no distinction for vulnerable individuals. In fact, a rather large percentage of faculty and staff could very well fall into a vulnerable group based upon age or medical condition. These folks may feel that the risk of disability or even death for themselves or their families is just too great. Will many of them decide to retire or leave their jobs instead of taking the risk as others have posted recently? It would be extremely disruptive for the school if indeed this were to happen at this point in the year. School superintendents need to be aware of the possible unintended consequences of their decisions.

  15. Larry
    It doesn’t appear that reasonable discussion is to be had on this topic or with Kerry.

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