Families protest any potential mask mandates before the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting

Will Teachers Ever Forgive Us for What We’ve Put Them Through?

Why would they?
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Another school year has started and by many accounts, we as a country are in even worse shape than we were a year ago, with ICUs filled to capacity, an extremely contagious COVID-19 variant spreading across the country, stagnant vaccination rates, and Republican governors fighting mask mandates, even in schools where the majority of students are too young to be eligible for the vaccine.

A lot of those governors are still treating children as a great COVID experiment. So much is still unknown about how the virus affects children, or how they carry it. Much of what was claimed to be common knowledge last year (like the idea that it doesn’t even affect kids at all) has proven to be completely false. And yet many state officials continue to fight against implementing basic safety measures for children, as well as for educators.

The results have been predictably horrifying.

A school district in Central Texas closed after two teachers died of COVID-19 late last month.

Three educators in one county in Florida died of COVID-19 complications in a span of 24 hours, one week before schools were set to reopen.

A beloved, longtime teacher in Georgia recently died after the school district refused to issue a mask mandate. According to The Daily Beast, the district ignored concerns over returning to in-person learning without a mask mandate and tried to distract teachers by temporarily relaxing their dress code, allowing them the privilege of wearing jeans to work:

In the email sent last week and viewed by The Daily Beast, [Bulloch County School District superintendent Charles] Wilson extended the “small gesture” of allowing teachers to wear jeans to work for a month without addressing mask concerns.

“I talked with principals today and we all agreed that, though it is a small gesture, you would enjoy the liberty of wearing jeans for the next month,” Wilson wrote. “So, by all means, please enjoy your jeans throughout the month of September (and the rest of August).”

Obviously, there are plenty of teachers out there worth being furious with, like the unvaccinated, unmasked woman from Marin County, California, who waltzed into her elementary school while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and infected half of her students, who then went on to unknowingly spread it to their friends in other classes. Similarly, the three Florida educators mentioned above were all unvaccinated.

This is only more reason, though, that masks should be mandated at schools, to protect those at risk (and pretty much everyone is at risk with the Delta variant on the rise) from this kind of thoughtlessness.

Instead, we are putting the feelings of these people:

Over these:

This is the situation we’ve put teachers in:

I don’t know how teachers can ever forgive us, or why they even should.

(image: Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.