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Broward Teachers Union files lawsuit over end of work-at-home accommodations

Broward Teachers Union files lawsuit against school district over staff being forced back into classroom
Broward Teachers Union files lawsuit against school district over staff being forced back into classroom

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Time is running out for hundreds of teachers in Broward County. Approximately 1,700 of them, who had been granted accommodations to work from home because of serious illnesses, now are being instructed physically go back to classes Monday.

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco held a press conference Thursday , where she announced BTU filed a lawsuit against Broward Schools in response to a decision by the Broward School District to end the special work-from-home accommodations for teachers and support staff with serious medical conditions.

“They’re ripping remote assignments away from our most vulnerable,” Fusco said. “These highest-risk educators should continue doing their full-time jobs online.”

(See the press conference below.)

BTU’s suit, filed in Broward County Circuit Court, seeks an injunction to prevent the district’s increase of the exposure of the most medically fragile educators until an arbitrator decides the dispute on an emergency expedited basis, according to the union.

“The district must immediately stop playing this deadly bureaucratic game with our medically compromised educators,” Fusco said.

Fusco noted that most of the union’s teachers are already physically in the classroom.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Robert Runcie announced the accommodations would not be extended.

“Our schools aren’t sources of spread for the pandemic. The schools are safe. I would say they’re probably safer than going to the grocery store or to the mall,” Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said.

Runcie said school principals will be the ones to decide if teachers can work remotely, not based on health issues but rather on logistics and the need at each school.

At the urging of the State, school districts sent out letters urging parents of children who are learning online and failing academically to get them back into the physical classroom.

Broward schools mailed out about 59,000 letters.

The superintendent believes up to 50 percent of the total student population will return to the classroom next semester, which starts next week.

Parents whose children are in Broward County School District are still able to choose between online learning or having them go back to school in the classroom. There are still online teaching assignments since remote learning is still an option.

“We have a need for remote teaching until this pandemic is over. We are hoping that our teachers will get some type of priority for the vaccines. And that could be a game changer for a lot of them,” Fusco said.

Several school board members are supporting the position of the BTU.

“We’re looking for equitable observations and equitable accommodations for our staff,” Nora Rupert, a member of the Broward County Public School District board, said.

Citing no clear-cut plan by the school district, Fusco said time is running out.

“We are concerned because everyone is supposed to show up back at school on Monday,” Fusco said.

(See the complete complaint filing.)

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.