There seems to be a new genre in the op-ed world: teachers who won’t go back to school.
On Sunday, Washington state teacher Rebecca Martinson entered an emotional plea in the New York Times that she not be forced to return to teaching.
Ms. Martin’s piece was mostly about her feelings, and the reader comes away with no idea of the actual risk.
To be clear, every teacher has every right not to continue in a job she regards as too dangerous. Accommodations will no doubt be made, including allowing some teachers to continue online classes.
Today, USA Today carries an opinion column by Nancy Shively, a teacher who says she voted for Donald Trump but has since abandoned the Republican Party. She now writes:
Nevertheless, I am still haunted because, deep down, I fear that with that vote I may have signed my own death warrant.
Unlike Martinson, Shively does give us an idea of the risk she would face if she returned to the classroom:
I am over 60, with two autoimmune diseases. This outbreak has me worried as it is. Now, with the prospect of schools reopening in a few short weeks, I am terrified.
She is not the only school teacher in her circle who would face risk:
And I am not the only one. One young teacher I know has chronic kidney problems and is at high risk for complications if she contracts COVID-19. She can’t quit her only source of income. Taking its cue from our governor, who hosted Trump’s rally and has now tested positive for COVID-19 himself, her school district has announced that wearing a mask will be optional, though the state is considering requiring it.
Her only choice right now, she told me, is to increase her life insurance and hope for the best. That is not a choice. That is our government failing us.
Of course, Ms. Shively and her friend do have choices. Does anybody seriously think that such high-risk teachers will be forced back into classrooms? To do so would defeat one of the purposes of re-opening schools: to return to normal life. It would also be cruel.
School systems will deal with such challenges if they can just re-open. I suspect that the point of Ms. Shively’s column is just to vent about how she feels about President Trump:
I am a special education teacher and lifelong Republican who reluctantly voted for Donald Trump in 2016 as the less bad of two bad choices.
When the pandemic hit, the incompetence of the man for whom I had voted and the complicity of everyone around him forced me to admit that I could no longer maintain any kind of self-respect as a Republican.
We want Ms. Martinson and Ms. Shively to be safe and comfortable. But there are more honest ways to discuss the re-opening to the public schools, which is a linchpin of economic recovery.