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Indiana teachers union backs strike if schools can’t reopen safely

Indiana’s second-largest teacher organization announced its members may resort to striking to ensure a safe return to school as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Aug 4, 2020 3:58 PM
Updated: Aug 6, 2020 11:46 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s second-largest teacher organization announced Tuesday that its members may resort to striking to ensure a safe return to school as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents around 4,500 teachers and education staff statewide, said schools should reopen for in-person instruction only if teachers and school staff are provided with adequate personal protective equipment, funding is provided for necessary safety resources such as masks and cleaning products, and cases in the community are under control. The union did not explain what an acceptable level of infection might be.

If those safeguards aren’t met, AFT Indiana President GlenEva Dunham said union members would consider a strike. A resolution passed by AFT’s national executive council indicates the union will back local or state-led teachers strikes relating to educator health and safety during the pandemic.

“The members of AFT Indiana will not be threatened or bullied into returning to situations that are not safe,” Dunham said. “Our lives and our children’s lives are at stake.”

She said the union is monitoring school reopenings “day-by-day.” Dozens of Indiana school districts have already reopened for in-person classes, or are planning to in the coming weeks, and Dunham said concerns remain about the precautions in place for brick-and-mortar settings.

Some school buildings don’t have central air, creating a “difficult” situation for students and teachers required to wear masks throughout the school day. In most classrooms, it’s also “virtually impossible” to space desks at least 6 feet apart to keep students socially distant.

“There are things that we’re asking for in order for us to feel safe,” Dunham said. “If they can’t do that, then we ask to go virtual.”

The Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Teachers in Avon Community Schools, just west of Indianapolis, gathered with signs Monday to peacefully protest district schools reopening, she said. On Tuesday, the school district said it learned that a second high school staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus since classes resumed July 29.

Even with remote learning options available, teachers are still being pressured to teach on two learning platforms without consideration for the strain it places on them, Dunham added. It’s another issue she called on districts to consider when weighing learning options for the new academic year.

Last week, the Indiana State Teachers Association, the largest teachers union in the state, also called for school buildings to only reopen if coronavirus cases are “under control in the community” and that specific protections are in place for students and staff to keep the virus at bay.

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.”

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Cases: 1312620

Reported Deaths: 24056
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook5258549860
DuPage871721255
Will72414968
Lake65012969
Kane56108756
Winnebago31421460
Madison29941515
McHenry27305279
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Ogle581578
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Grundy563771
Coles555094
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Jackson487263
Henry475863
Effingham468672
Livingston462583
Macoupin461181
Stephenson455981
Woodford444364
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Lee401951
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Jo Daviess177724
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Wayne173652
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Scott4691
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Hardin37012
Pope3073
Out of IL30
Unassigned02301

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 711787

Reported Deaths: 13252
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion970181723
Lake52028950
Allen39414672
Hamilton34709406
St. Joseph34386543
Elkhart27543433
Vanderburgh22109394
Tippecanoe21967213
Porter18043301
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Warrick7709155
Floyd7574176
Wayne6921198
Grant6862171
Boone6584100
Morgan6425138
Dubois6101117
Marshall5819109
Dearborn572076
Cass5706104
Henry5591101
Noble544583
Jackson494672
Shelby481995
Lawrence4351118
Gibson429789
Harrison429371
Clinton421853
Montgomery419387
DeKalb414484
Whitley383239
Huntington380480
Miami374165
Steuben368757
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Putnam353660
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Ripley335769
Jefferson318180
White309254
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Washington231931
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Fountain209845
Sullivan208342
Starke206452
Owen192956
Fulton192440
Jay186629
Carroll186120
Perry181436
Orange178553
Rush170824
Vermillion166543
Franklin166035
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Parke144616
Blackford134131
Pike130934
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Martin83315
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Ohio56011
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