January 28, 2022

With mask mandate in legal limbo, members strive for school safety and security

Source:  NYSUT Communications
student in mask
Caption: Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

After an appeals judge kept the state’s mask mandate in place this week, NYSUT members sought guidance from administrators and tried to assure young people and concerned parents that measures are still in place to keep children safe and in school.

“Public health experts have been clear that masks are an important part of the strategies designed to keep students, educators and our communities safe,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

However, educators around the state encountered hostility from community members threatening retribution against these professionals who are simply following existing policy and advocating on behalf of students.

“Threats and hostility toward educators have no place in this debate,” said Pallotta. “NYSUT members are doing the best they can in a really tough situation. They deserve cooperation and patience as the state, and now the courts, determine what comes next.”

In Saratoga County, a teacher was threatened in hundreds of posts on social media for attempting to help a crying young child who showed up at school without a mask.

In Colonie, a parent threatened an administrator for sending home a student who refused to mask up

Reports of similar confrontations have been reported on Long Island, where some local officials had resisted the mandate even before the judge’s order, and in other regions.

These are the latest examples of NYSUT members enduring unfair challenges to their professionalism and competence.

“Our union stands with them,” Pallotta said. “While there are small, vocal elements who are unfairly blaming teachers, the larger community has shown its understanding and appreciation.

A supermajority of U.S. parents give public schools and teachers top marks for their Herculean efforts to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, fresh polling shows, with perceptions of teachers unions soaring to record highs.