Liberty Justice Center is representing Chicago area parents as they navigate the battle for in-person education, while the Chicago Teachers Union continues to keep schools closed.
The following article, written by Louis Casiano, was published on Fox News on January 29, 2021.
Chicago parents upset over the impasse between school district officials and the teacher’s union said they are prepared to sue in order to force educators to return to their classrooms.
The Chicago Teacher’s Union and Chicago Public Schools have been engaged in a standoff over the reopening of schools amid what union members deem are lackluster coronavirus prevention efforts. Teachers and staff for K-8 were ordered to return Monday in an effort to prepare for a Feb. 1 opening.
Those plans were shuttered after the union overwhelmingly voted to continue virtual learning instead of physically reporting for work. In-person learning was canceled Wednesday when teachers defied district orders to return after negotiations over re-opening conditions broke down. Students were taught remotely on Thursday as well.
Some student parents have thrown the word “strike” around, with the belief that one could materialize if the deadlock continues. Chicago-area police officer Ammie Kassem, 45, told Fox News that parents will take legal action if teachers decide to do so.
“We’re going to force them to come to the table,” she said of the union. “Hopefully that will put some pressure on them to get these schools open.”
Laurel Golden, who has three boys — a 10-year-old in fifth grade and a pair of 8-year-old twins in second grade — said she’s had to put off her externship to become a veterinarian assistant to watch her children who are learning from home.
“What we’re asking of the union is nothing out of the ordinary,” Golden, 49, told Fox News on Wednesday. “Kids in Catholic schools throughout Chicago and other private schools in the area… they’re in school all day everyday.”
Daniel Suhr, senior attorney with the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center, which represents opposed to physical school closures, said his group is ready to file a lawsuit at a moment’s notice.
“If the district says ‘This is what we expect of our employees’ and the union refuses to do it, that’s a strike and we will sue,” he said. “The documents are sitting on my laptop. We are ready to pull the trigger on behalf of parents.”
A 2019 collective bargaining agreement bars union members from striking while under contract.
Kassem has two daughters — ages 16 and 12 — in public schools and a 6-year-old son in a private school, which is open. The stalemate has put families in a state of the unknown, she said.
“Even just last week, my daughter was set to go back to school in-person and at the last second… at night we’re getting an email from the principal telling us ‘Nope, nope, not going to do it,'” she said.
In a Tuesday email to parents, district CEO Janice Jackson said the union’s actions “will prevent these students from receiving the classroom support their parents needed and chose.”
Messages to CTU were not immediately returned. Union leaders have said they are seeking a “health metric based on CDC guidance” that includes a phased reopening, COVID-19 vaccinations for educators, enforceable safety standards and proper ventilation and clean facilities.
“We want to return to safe, welcoming and thriving schools — and that can’t happen until we put the health and safety precautions of our educators, our students and the larger community ahead of the unreasonable demand to return to school buildings that lack the necessary protocols to keep us safe,” Stacy Davis Gates, CTU’s vice president said in a statement.
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