If teachers don’t want to head back into the classroom, what rights do they have?

ATLANTA — With schools starting up classes again for the new school year — some with in-person teaching — what rights do teachers have if they don't go back into the classroom because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore spoke with Margaret Ciccarelli with the Progressional Association of Georgia Educators about the concerns she’s hearing from school teachers and the rights they have.

“We are hearing from hundreds of educators around the state who have deep concerns about schools opening. Our educators want to go back to schools, but the question of when they go back and how they go back is critical right now,” Ciccarelli said. “We’re hearing from more educators and districts who are either already open for face-to-face instruction or who have announced plans to resume face-to-face instruction soon. Teachers in those districts are concerned that the districts are not making accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act for conditions that the teachers have that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus. They’re also concerned if they’re providing virtual instruction that districts are requiring them to come in onto school sites to provide that virtual instruction.”

Ciccarelli told Moore that many are concerned about their own exposure to the virus.


“They have to go back home to their families. Schools are already known as sort of the places where germs like to hang out anyway because you have so many children coming in together in one place. But teachers are passionate, and they need their paychecks. So they can’t necessarily sit this out, can they?” Moore asked Ciccarelli.

“They’re torn. They care a lot and for their students, which is the reason that they do what they do. But they also need a paycheck during a time of financial instability,” Ciccarelli said.

Ciccarelli said the association has also surveyed its members who have preexisting conditions that might make them more susceptible to the coronavirus.

“Many of them have those conditions. But many more of them live with family members who are vulnerable to the virus, which makes them particularly concerned about returning to work on-site,” Ciccarelli said.

“If they don’t go to work, do they get fired?” Moore asked Ciccarelli.

“They could certainly be fired. Once their leave is exhausted, and they’ve got several types of leave available to them under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, FFCRA, 10 days of leave there, and then sick leave if they have an illness, which allows them to use that leave. But once that leave is expired, if the school district isn’t on board with giving them additional leave, those educators could be fired,” Ciccarelli said.