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LAE President Responds to Senator John Kennedy's Harsh Remarks about Louisiana's Schools Reopening

Dr. Tia Mills: “We have nothing to gain, only lives to protect!”

LAE President Responds to Senator John Kennedy’s Harsh Remarks about Louisiana’s Schools Reopening

It has become apparent to me that some of our elected officials are clueless about the tremendous anxiety that many have surrounding the COVID-19 health crisis. One Louisiana lawmaker even went as far as to point the finger at teachers’ unions referring to our pushback surrounding the start of school as “using kids as political pawns.” This is an individual who should be standing up for us, not pitting us against one another. I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight: we have nothing to gain from a political standpoint, only lives to protect!

In just a few short weeks, teachers, classroom aides, school nurses and bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and other dedicated education professionals will resume their work on the frontlines as they welcome hundreds of students back to school. Are these women and men ready to see their students? Yes. Are they eager to restore a sense of normalcy for the children they serve? Of course. There is, however, a level of fear that comes with the unknown. We can’t blame our educators for being uneasy with the thought of being in confined spaces with, in most cases, more than 25 other individuals, not knowing where these individuals have been or with whom they’ve been in contact. Louisiana’s public school employees dedicate their lives to serving the future generation of this state. We owe it to them to hear their concerns, ease their anxieties, and do everything we can to help them feel safe.

The whole situation is concerning for us as a professional association. Staying out of school for a more extended period only stands to worsen our students’ emotional health. But at the same time, this virus has proven to be deadly. It is important to remember that while most children and teenagers tend to handle COVID-19 quite well, a large population of Louisiana’s school employees are older, have underlying health issues, or have family members who have underlying health issues. We cannot afford to put one students’ or educators’ life at risk. 

It is our opinion that we aren’t yet ready to reopen. Still, regardless of whether we return in three weeks or three months, our focus should be on ensuring that adequate measures are taken to protect all individuals learning or working in our schools. It’s not a political issue. It’s a human issue. And any gain we consider in this whole situation is the protection of lives -  at all costs. 

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