Indiana teachers union supports national threat to strike over unsafe reopenings

Indiana’s American Federation of Teachers says it supports the national union’s resolution that calls on members to use “every action and tool available” to ensure schools reopen safely, including strikes.

“The members of AFT Indiana will not be threatened or bullied into returning to situations that are not safe,” said AFT Indiana President GlenEva Dunham. “Our lives and our children’s lives are at stake.”

During a press conference Tuesday, the union—which statewide represents around 4,500 educators and school support staff—made its call for schools to open only if coronavirus cases are under control, schools have the needed safeguards and personal protective equipment, and resources including funding.

There are no current plans to strike, Dunham said, but the union is “watching it day-by-day” and would receive support from the national organization. Teachers in Avon Community Schools, which started in-person classes last week, gathered with signs on Monday to peacefully protest the reopening, she said.

Few districts have everything they need, Dunham said. She listed concerns with reopening in-person classes, including that some buildings don’t have central air or room to allow students to remain socially distant students. But she stopped short of saying all of the state’s more than 300 districts should start the year virtually.

“We do have some of our locals with maybe three schools who do have resources, who feel comfortable… whereas we have some locals who are not getting administrative backing,” Dunahm said. “We’re saying safety first. Administration and teachers know if they think their school corporation is being safe.”

Indiana’s labor law does not allow for strikes, although it cannot stop them. Historically, teachers in Indiana have more often held protests rather than strikes. In November, thousands of teachers requested time off, using a protest approach similar to a “sick out.” If teachers were to  strike, it would mean teachers refused to work and therefore give up pay and eventually lose their benefits.

Indiana’s largest teachers union, Indiana State Teachers Association, has also called for schools to only reopen if COVID-19 cases are “under control” in the community and protections are in place for students. The union has asked the state to report the number of cases in schools more transparently.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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13 thoughts on “Indiana teachers union supports national threat to strike over unsafe reopenings

    1. From the data I can find, in 2016-17 there were just over 60,000 public school teachers in Indiana. The National Center for Education Statistics said there were 64,000 in 2011-12.

  1. Since every location is impacted, or not, by the virus, it is unfair to suggest a national teachers’ strike. It is irresponsible, as the situation varies throughout the country and has to to be monitored and managed on a local level.

    As far as the LA teachers go with their leftist political demands, they should all be fired. President Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers who went on strike, and his example should be followed.

    Districts and schools surely want the students and staff to be safe. Perhaps the virtual gig was appealing and addictive for some teachers.

    And, other essential workers do their jobs, so I don’t know why teachers find themselves to be an exception. I am glad they became teachers and not doctors, nurses, hospital employees, trash collectors, police and firemen or women, etc. etc. etc.

    1. Susie – First, there is no call for a national teachers strike. The national union is simply statign that it supports teachers using whatever measn they have (including strikes) to ensure schools are opening safely. Second, how does firing teachers help people who want their children back in school? There’s not exactly a surplus of teachers waiting around to fill ion these rolls. Indiana has had a growing teacher shortage for years – and people like you trying to tell them how to do their job play a part in creating that shortage. Third, it’s clear you are not a teacher or closely related to one if you think anyone is hoping for extended virtual learning. Teachers want to be effective and have an impact on their students – but they want to be safe in the process. Too many district leaders are waiting around and not wanting to make big decisions but that is what has been needed all summer. Teachers need our support so that schools can open safely. Not a bunch of online armchair quaterbacks telling everyone else how to do their job.

    2. This is a pretty rude comparison and you’re making a lot of assumptions, really. Yes, essential workers are doing their jobs — but comparing the roles of doctors and nurses to teachers in classrooms is ridiculous. Hospitals deal in life and death everyday. So do cops. But teaching our children should not be a situation where people are forced to prepare wills and get their affairs in order. At minimum, schools need to do a better job of being prepared than they are — kids are still sitting 30 in a classroom and walking through halls like it’s any other year, and often taking off their masks, as “invincible” kids are want to do.

      Put yourself in the position of teachers for just 10 seconds — they’re already grossly underpaid for what they do. Should contracting a potentially fatal disease be part of the job description? It may not be fatal for a younger teacher, but what about that teacher’s family or the other teachers in the building near retirement?

  2. Right on, Susie D. Let’s see: Democrat-led Teacher’s Unions go on strike to insure that kids stay even more ignorant of history than they now are so they can become good Democrat-voting sheep later in life and riot and destroy Democrat-run cities. ‘Sounds like a workable plan to finish off the country.

    1. No teachers strikes are currently happening Bob. In fact they are illegal in Indiana and teachers can lose their jobs for striking.
      Teachers need support from administrators and parents to implement safe learning environments. But all I see online are uninformed people like yourself trying to demonize our educators. It’s sad and pathetic.

  3. Teachers as it is with the general population are 50 times more likely to get the seasonal flu with a similar recovery and symptoms, including deaths. Apparently NO one has died from the seasonal flu, why would they C-19 symptoms are similar. Everything will be good after November 3rd. We are a right to work state, quit filling their coffers and their radical agenda will decline.

    1. Really? The “this is all a hoax and goes away November 3” crap has to stop. Get your news from a balanced source. I’m happy to introduce you to four families who’s loved ones died from Covid. I’m happy to introduce you to another family of four who all contracted it — and by a miracle alone, avoided giving it to another family member in the high-risk category. I’ve never met anyone who died from seasonal flu. Your conspiracy theories are about 5 months old.

  4. Joseph W: I am a licensed Indiana public school teacher and have taught in Indianapolis Public Schools. So is my wife, who retired from Pike Township Schools several years ago. So we certainly aren’t all about “demonizing” teachers. What we are all about is the necessity of students being in a classroom environment and those who are being paid to be there teaching them need to be there, just as our daughter and son-in-law, both in medical fields, tended to COVID patients -and saw a few of those patients die a result- during the month of April. We can’t all curl up in a corner and wait for Democrats to print what will become worthless money while we wait this out.

    1. Hey Bob – if the hospital had 4 months to get ready and insisted that your daughter and son-in-law took care of COVID patients without the proper PPE, how would you feel?

      What has America been doing the last four months? Why aren’t we overflowing with testing and masks?

  5. Supporting a national teachers’ strike sounds like a
    nationwide strike to me. I taught in diverse pubic schools most of my career and in a private school for several years. I was in the teachers’ union during all of my public school teaching years. I am now in my armchair, but I would come out of retirement if needed.

    The LA teachers are threatening to strike if their radical left wing demands, including defunding the police, are not met. I personally don’t think politics belongs in the K – 12 schools, and I never inflicted my political views or
    opined on the subject in my classroom.

    Look up the IPS manifesto on BLM. It is not the only district, as BLM politics has already been taught by some
    other districts for several years. This is a fact.

    Warren Township Schools and other districts have expended tremendous effort to implement the hybrid teaching model. I commend both administrators and teachers for the time and organization this must have taken.

  6. Glad Union Teachers are not responsible for manufacturing toilet paper or frozen chicken… I’ll let the cashiers at every retailer where the teachers shop about how dangerous the teachers’ jobs are.. #Heros 😂😂