NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some Middle Tennessee teachers who are concerned about schools opening safely participated in a mock funeral procession to bring attention to the issue.
A group gathered at the Nashville Farmers' Market for a "Die In and Vigil." Their message is that "Dead students can't learn. Dead teachers can't teach."
After several speakers addressed the crowd, teachers loaded up in cars decorated with signs and red flags for a mock funeral procession. They drove throughout Nashville and to the Governor's mansion.
The Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA) organized the event which featured teachers and parents from across the region. The group is calling on Gov. Lee and State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn to do more to protect Tennessee teachers, students and families.
"We are really concerned about many districts across the state that have very little protection in place for educators and students," said Amanda Kail, President of MNEA. "I have talked to teachers who are updating their wills."
Kail said teachers would feel safe returning to work if all classes are online until there have been 14 days with no new COVID-19 cases.
"Everyone is talking like we have to go back and there are no other options," said Kail. "We can go back online, and we can do this safely."
Teachers in Metro Nashville Public Schools said they are grateful they will start the school year with virtual learning, but they are concerned for their colleagues in other districts who don't have that opportunity.
"Online we still have the opportunity to build relationships and cultivate that opportunity for learning," said Emily Stolz, a teacher at Paragon Mills Elementary School. "If our children are sick, and if our teachers are sick, there is not that opportunity."
The MNEA's additional demands are:
- Additional technology for students to equitably access digital curricula.
- Sufficient, disposable PPE for all school staff and students upon return to campus.
- Mental health professional access to help students heal from the traumas of this pandemic and the readjustment to campus life socially and emotionally.
- Access to broadband/internet for all students regardless of socio-economic background.
- Our demands are INTRINSICALLY tied to the movement for racial justice, as Black and Brown folks have been disproportionately borne the brunt of this pandemic and will continue to do so with ineffective leadership
Similar protests were held in Memphis and Knoxville.