Portland Public Schools Accuses Teachers of Calling In Sick to Force School Closures

Brittany M. Hughes | January 14, 2022
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Portland teachers are allegedly calling out of work sick in order to force school closures, as teachers unions go to war with local school districts and governing officials over the most recent – but far less deadly – COVID surge.

According to local reports, Portland Public Schools is now accusing teachers of coordinating with each other to stage “sick-outs,” saying teachers are calling their colleagues and urging them to call in sick in numbers high enough to force schools to close.

Two local schools, Franklin High School and Tubman Middle School, have reportedly already had to close due to a high volume of faculty calling in sick in what they claimed were COVID-related illnesses. One elementary school alone had 13 staff absences at one time earlier this week, leaving other teachers to pick up the slack while the school even tried to fill the vacancies with faculty from other schools. The teachers who remained in the building, according to local reports, want to go back to virtual learning due to the overload.

Now, the school district is saying they’re getting multiple reports that at least some of the teachers taking those “sick days” weren’t actually sick at all, a move that the district says would violate their employment policy – and which throws thousands of children under the proverbial school bus. 

“It is unlawful for educators to participate in any sort of coordinated action to be absent for anything other than a legitimate reason under District policy,” wrote PPS Chief of Human Resources Sharon Reese in a letter to staff and picked up by KOIN.

The local teacher’s union, however, accused the school district of trying to “blame educators for the District’s own failure to honestly and proactively address the current staffing crisis and public health emergency,” saying teachers are using their sick time for valid illnesses or to care for sick family members amid the recent uptick in COVID cases.

The union promised to “aggressively” fight the allegations and any attempt to force teachers to come into work while sick.

While it’s hard to say whether each individual teacher was actually ill or was simply playing hookie to force schools to return to cave to their demands for virtual learning, one thing’s undeniable: teachers unions have lost all credibility with their school districts, parents, and the families they supposedly serve. So while the jury’s out on this articular allegation, I know where I’d place my bet.