An email from MTI faculty representatives urged teachers to report to the district before 8 a.m. last Thursday that they had COVID-19 symptoms.
“I’m sure we all feel exhausted, or have consistent headaches, not really feeling our usual energetic selves. Are you picking up what I’m putting down here?” the email states.
“We need them (MMSD) to get thousands of responses on the google forms. Flood them. We are encouraging you and your staff to join us all in solidarity to show the district that we do not believe it is safe yet,” the union reps’ message implored.
A source with inside information said some teachers had a change of heart following publication of Empower Wisconsin’s story and organizers spoke of shifting the protest to Monday. Sources say the teachers will now use other means to try to get their message across.
Two public interest law firms — the Liberty Justice Center and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty notified the union on Friday that if the teachers went through with their plan they would be breaking state law and could face a lawsuit.
“An organized sick out is a form of strike and illegal in the State of Wisconsin and we are prepared to file a lawsuit to stop this illegal action. Madison students need to be in school, not used as pawns in a publicity stunt,” said Daniel Suhr, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center.
The union quickly punched back, threatening the law firms and, apparently, Empower Wisconsin.
In a learning preference survey filled out by 98% of district families in February, 65% of families with kindergarten students said they plan to resume sending their children to in-person learning on March 9.
No recent surveys of MTI members were available. But in a survey the union conducted of its members at all grade levels in December, 94% of the respondents said they did not feel comfortable returning to the classroom to teach in-person instruction during the third quarter.
Staff at schools beyond elementary joined in Thursday’s protest in a show of “solidarity.” Pete Opps, a LHS teacher and one of the school’s Madison Teachers Inc. building reps, stood outside the school talking with a pair of community residents who pulled into the parking lot to share their support for the teachers. Throughout the morning, some cars honked in support as they drove by on Pflaum Road.
“The teach out is really about visibility,” Opps said. “There’s a lot of people in the community just recognizing that putting people back together in a school may not be the best approach at this juncture.”
“To try to meet the students’ needs who are in front of them and also virtually simultaneously, that’s just sort of an impossible ask, especially at the elementary level,” Schultz said. “We wanted to represent those concerns that we’re hearing.”
Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled
Madison Teachers Inc. posts on its Facebook about the teach outs happening this morning: pic.twitter.com/fptiPJCpNs
— Scott Girard (@sgirard9) March 4, 2021