KILLEEN, Texas — The Texas State Teachers Association filed a grievance with the Killeen Independent School District Tuesday on behalf of the Killeen Educators Association, whose members have been forced to work in unsafe conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a TSTA press release.
The grievance states that being forced to work in an unsafe environment violates the Texas Education Code as well as the Killeen ISD board policy. The district has proposed ideas and put procedures in place without effectively carrying them out, according to TSTA.
“The safety of the students, the staff and the KISD community must come first,” Killeen Educators Association President Rick Beaule said. “This isn’t about whether we want to work. We desperately want to teach our students to be the best they can be. This just can’t happen as we stand right now. Student cases have already begun to rise.”
The district administration, he added, has ignored the educators’ concerns.
- Requests for more effective air filters have been denied.
- Employees who have the most interaction with children are not provided with face shields.
- Some employees are provided with cleaning supplies, and some are not.
- Social distancing and safety measures reportedly are not being enforced effectively in cafeterias and P.E. classes.
“Our members do not feel safe,” the grievance states. “Our members are being unfairly penalized because the school district has failed to prepare accordingly for the virtual learning of all its students during the 2020-2021 school year.”
TSTA said these conditions may pose “an unacceptable risk” of teachers being exposed to COVID-19 with possible long-lasting effects on the health of school employees and the public.
The educators asked that KISD provide personal protection equipment for every employee at their campuses, that on-campus instruction is canceled and switched to virtual learning, that students are provided with the necessary equipment and that members who express concerns about school safety to the administration not be retaliated against, according to TSTA.
In a statewide survey on school safety conducted by TSTA among its members, the Killeen Educators Association had one of the biggest responses. Forty-six members reported more than 350 district violations of a dozen COVID-19 safety standards, including inadequate social distancing and ventilation, violations of the mask mandate, inadequate safety and sanitation supplies and an inadequate sick leave policy that encourages employees who may be infected with the virus to go to work for fear of losing pay, according to TSTA.
If the grievance issues are not resolved at the district level, the TSTA affiliate can file an appeal to the state education commissioner, according to TSTA.
The grievance states, "On August 25, 2020, our members were notified that they would be required to physically return to the campuses of Killeen Independent School for in-person instruction. We do not believe that this decision was made in the best interests of our members, employees or the students of Killeen Independent School District. Due to the current pandemic, we believe that our members, KISD employees and KISD students will be unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19. We are concerned about the school district’s ability to adequately support and protect our members. Our members should not be required to work under unsafe working conditions."
On behalf of KISD, Taina Maya stated, "It would be highly inappropriate for either party to discuss a grievance before the grievance process is adhered to, and has been fully exhausted, particularly in an effort to forge public opinion."
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