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Examining teachers' rights as complicated new school year begins

Posted at 6:45 AM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 09:45:10-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — For weeks, we've been hearing from teachers who say they aren't ready to go back to the classroom.

The Tucson Education Association [TEA] wants to make it clear they are not in favor of teachers returning to the classroom too soon.

They want to return when the data shows it's safe to and they are prepared to represent teachers who need them.

“A lot of teachers have kids in school that want them to return to school. It's not like we don't identify with all the folks that are trying to get their kids back. It's just that it's not safe. And so, when it's safe-- Yes, everybody comes back, but if it's not safe, No, absolutely not,” said Margaret Chaney, president of TEA.

For teachers who say it is too soon, Chaney said they have rights. She explained those with pre-existing conditions can file for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If they need to get ADA accommodations. They, they should get a note from their doctor," she said.

She explained whether teachers could be fired if they refuse to return to the classroom.

“I'm not an attorney, so I don't know all the laws, but I certainly you still have to provide a safe environment. So ,that's the employer that has to do that. You can't put your teachers or your employees in harm's way, knowing that they're in harm's way. I think that we have a good case on that, ” she explained.

In that case, she says the union would want their districts to find alternative duties that could range from working remotely, catching up on clerical duties, and much more.

“We're just trying to get everyone to understand that if something happens to that teacher or something happens to another student because we're open too early, then that teacher is out for two weeks,” she explained.