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'Teachers are afraid' | Educators organize Day of Resistance, demand safe return to school

Educators nationwide organized a call to action, asking state and local leaders to delay in-person learning until COVID-19 cases go down.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Monday may have marked the start of a new week but for some teachers it was a day of resistance.
"This was a rally to help organize educators across the state," KCEA president Tanya Coats said. 

It all happened online to answer questions, organize and call attentions to equity, safety and the voices of teachers. 

"What I get on a regular basis, teachers who are terrified or don't know what they should be doing," Coats said. 

Knox County Education Association co-sponsored the virtual rally along multiple other education organizations across the state. 

"KCEA's position is we would prefer no in person classes until the cases are controllable," she said. 

However, for many teachers that also means talking about equity.

"When you think about equity you have to make it fair and accessible to everyone else," she said.

Dave Gorman teaches 7th grade science and said the messages shared at the virtual rally were necessary.

"We want to be in the classroom, we want to do our job but we don't feel like it's safe right now," he said. 

He agrees many teachers are concerned and for him online feels like the safe choice.

"I teach experiments but I don't feel good being subject to an experiment or my middle school teachers," he said. 

Both Coats and Gorman said they want their local and state leaders to hear their voices and make a decision as students are already heading back to school.

"They have control over making decision, what's best for everyone," Coats said. 

The Tennessee Education Association also renewed its call for a delay of re-opening schools and in-person learning. 

In an email a spokesperson for the organization said:

"Recent COVID-19 data does not support reopening school buildings and the resumption of in-person instruction in any part of the state. No system should make the decision to reopen school buildings, and where in-person instruction has begun, it should be suspended by the local district.

The resumption of in-person instruction is a local decision, as it should be. However, directors and school boards who do not have local health departments with expertise in virus transmission rely on the state, and the state has refused to set thresholds when school buildings must remain closed due to new virus infections.

TEA references a Harvard School of Public Health research-based guidelines on school building reopening and the resumption of in-person instruction. Any new case rate over 25 indicates no in-person instruction should resume."