NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Many people spend Labor Day outdoors or with loved ones, but this year a group of teachers chose to spend the holiday protesting.
On Monday afternoon, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) hosted a car caravan calling on further action from Governor Bill Lee and State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. The caravan left from downtown Nashville in the early afternoon and drove past the Governor’s Mansion while honking their horns.
“I have friends who are teachers around the state who message me …like terrified, afraid that they’re going to get sick, their family is going to get sick. Their students are getting sick,” said Cassie Norton, a second-year teacher with Metro Public Schools.
Norton and most Metro teachers will continue with virtual learning through October 12. Norton said her participation in Monday’s planned demonstration is about showing support for teachers in other districts that are returning to in-person learning.
“I’m here in solidarity with them, because like I said, our local leadership has done so much to protect us but not everyone has that,” Norton said.
Norton and other demonstrators expressed gratitude for Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Director Adrienne Battle and her decision making during this time.
“We are all really grateful for her. She has really stepped up,” Norton added.
MNEA was one of the main the organizers of the protest.
“Of course we want to return to the classroom,” MNEA President Amanda Kail said. “We miss our students, but we don’t want to return until it’s safe for everyone to be there.”
Kail added that she and others want leaders to keep all Tennessee schools online until it is safe, meaning less than 10 new cases per 100,000 persons for a minimum of 14 days.
Here are a list of the MNEA demands:
1. More must be done to control the community spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee. This means issuing a statewide mask mandate, expanding the capacity of contact tracing, increasing state funding for unemployment benefits and rent relief, and expanding access to health care so all Tennesseans are able to stay home safely.
2. Increase state funding to public schools to ensure every school district in Tennessee is able to equitably meet the needs of all students while classes are held online. We know we need many more devices and hotspots, but we also know we need massively increased support for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who struggle with homelessness, poverty, hunger, and violence.
3. Cancel all state testing and teacher evaluations, including portfolios, for the 2020-2021 school year. Teachers and students should not be punished for failing to meet standards that are unrealistic during a global pandemic.
News 2 reached out to Governor Bill Lee for a response on today’s demonstration. His press secretary sent back this statement,
Gov. Lee strongly believes that parents deserve a choice in their child’s education during this time, whether it be in-person, online, or a hybrid model of instruction. To that end, Tennessee’s Unified Command Group has distributed nearly 3 million reusable masks for teachers, 27 million disposable masks for students, and 80,000 PPE/sanitation kits to schools statewide to help ensure a safe return to the classroom. We have also worked with local districts to ensure that every child has an online instruction option if that’s what their parents deem best.