(KFOR NEWS December 9, 2020) In mid-November, the Nebraska State Education Association filed a petition with the Nebraska Board of Education seeking an order from the Board requiring schools to follow recommended CDC and UNMC safety criteria, interventions and protocols, including mandating masks in schools, until the risk of COVID-19 transmission is abated. This week, the Board denied the NSEA’s request.
The following is a statement from NSEA President, Jenni Benson: “First, I want to talk about courage – and lack of courage. Teachers – and their students – have been courageous throughout this pandemic. Our teachers are doing everything they can to help their students, to keep the learning going, and to keep kids safe and in school. Our state and nation are in the midst of a huge surge in COVID-19 cases and will likely face another following Christmas. The scientific evidence is clear: We need statewide, mandatory safety protocols if we are going to be able to keep our teachers, school staff and students in our classrooms where the very best learning can take place.”
“I commend those Nebraska school districts that have implemented mask mandates and other safety measures. The problem is that the state is taking a swiss cheese approach to such protocols. The 100 or so school districts that have not instituted adequate safety protocols are the giant holes in the cheese that are allowing an extremely contagious virus to find any and every opportunity to spread.
“We are extremely disappointed in the State Board of Education’s decision to deny our request. Frankly, the Board’s attempt to stand behind legal justifications for its failure to act lacks credibility. Earlier this year the Board did not hesitate to grant a similar request by school administrators for a declaratory order relieving school districts from many regulatory obligations during the pandemic. In granting relief to school districts, the Board delegated broad authority to the Commissioner to grant administrators with “flexibility” in complying with nearly all statutory and regulatory requirements involving school operations, ranging from textbook returns to continued accreditation. Now, when faced with a simple request by the NSEA – which represents nearly 28,000 classroom teachers and education support professionals – to identify the basic mitigations associated with safe school operations in a pandemic, the Board claims a lack of legal authority to do so.
“Instead of standing up for our classroom teachers, school staff and students, the State Board has joined with Governor Ricketts in simply passing the buck as opposed to taking a firm stand in support of the safety protocols scientists and medical professionals say we must follow to get this virus under control so we can keep our kids in school and in our classrooms. Passing the buck in this case will lead to passing the virus on to more and more school staff, children and their families. The State Board of Education receives a grade of F for this irresponsible, uncourageous decision. Likewise, Governor Ricketts and his Department of Health and Human Services receive failing grades.
“NSEA now turns to parents, community leaders and all Nebraskans: We ask them to stand up for our students and school staff by contacting elected officials to insist they act responsibly and courageously and enact science-based safety protocols to protect our children, the elderly and all families.
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