Teachers are suing the Broward School Board for ordering them to return to the classroom and stop working from home, at the same time COVID-19 cases are surging.
About 1,700 teachers with conditions such as cancer, kidney disease and heart disease have been approved to teach from their homes since mid-October when the district reopened for face-to-face instruction.
But they received letters saying their remote assignment ended Friday and they should return to work Monday, which violates an agreement between the district and the Broward Teachers Union, according to a lawsuit the union filed in circuit court.
The teachers want an emergency injunction allowing them to keep working from home.
“Broward Schools is putting these most vulnerable educators and their families in immediate danger of possible severe illness and death,” union President Anna Fusco said. “These highest-risk educators should continue doing their full-time jobs online.”
The lawsuit names the district, the School Board and Human Resources Chief Alan Strauss, who Fusco said ordered teachers to come back Jan. 11 without discussing it with the union.
The office of Kathy Koch, chief commutations officer for Broward schools, issued a statement saying “the district does not comment on potential, pending or ongoing litigation.”RELATED: Fearful teachers told to return to the classroom Monday »
However, two defendants in the suit, School Board members and former teachers Nora Rupert and Sarah Leonardi, attended a news conference Thursday to side with the union.
“I was taught as a teacher for anyone to function, they have to feel safe and secure,” Leonardi said.
Florida reported reported 19,816 new coronavirus cases Thursday, the most ever for a single day.?
The September agreement, which expires June 30, says the district will “strive to provide the choice of a remote assignment to the highest possible number of requesting employees.” The district received 5,000 requests and approved 2,000, with 1,700 coming from teachers.RELATED: 76,000 struggling students will be asked to return to school »
But the district has been trying to eliminate overflow rooms where a large number of students study online with students who are often taking different subjects. They’re trying to get students to learn in actual teacher classrooms and have said they need more teachers at school.
Only 26% of Broward students are learning on campus, and that may rise to 39% when the new semester starts Wednesday, according to parent surveys.
Some teachers have said they are considering quitting or taking leave because they don’t feel safe to return.