By CBSMiami.com Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Broward Teachers Union has officially filed a lawsuit against Broward County Public Schools and its head of Human Resources to prevent the School District from forcing teachers with serious medical conditions to return to in-person learning.

“Our students are important at home. Whatever reason the parents can’t bring them back into school, they want their kids remote educated and we need those remote teachers,” said Anna Fusco, President of the Broward Teachers Union. “They don’t want to not teach their students, they don’t want to not return, but they are legitimately afraid if they return, that they may contract the virus and they are at the highest risk.”

Fusco says medically compromised educators face extreme risks from COVID-19 because of life-threatening health issues such as cancer, kidney disease, sickle cell, autoimmune disease and other serious conditions.

The Broward Teacher’s Union said they had an agreement with the District that would allow teachers to work remotely until June. But now, just as the pandemic is surging, head of Human Resources Alan Strauss is cancelling their online teaching assignments and ordering them back to the classroom by the start of the second of second semester next week.

BTU’s suit, filed in Broward County Circuit Court, seeks an injunction to prevent the District from forcing medically fragile educators back into the classroom.

Fusco noted that the vast majority, 90%, of BTU members are already physically in the classroom.

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The limited number of seriously vulnerable employees are eager to return to campus as soon as it is safe for them to do so including teacher Elisa Cartagena who is immunocompromised.

“I’m very torn, I go back and forth about what the right decision is for me and my family,” Cartagena said.

The Broward teacher and speech therapist of 21 years is one of 1,500 teachers who received a letter from the Broward School District saying they have to return for in-person work on Monday.

“It’s tough. I really don’t want to leave my students and families without a qualified provider,” she said. “And I want to be the best mom and wife to my family, and I have to be healthy to do that.” She added, “In my heart, I want to go back because I want to be there for the kids. But my head is saying that’s not safe.”

Fusco says these teachers simply want to continue to work full-time with their students online as they have since the start of remote learning.

“I have two teachers in ICU right now, two in ICU, and they’re still working remote on oxygen tanks,” explained Fusco. “And you know what their principals told them? I expect you back to work on Monday or take a leave.”

In some cases, school principals can allow teachers to continue to work from home.

If that’s not possible, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said teachers can contact human resources to come up with a plan, including taking a leave of absence.

Miami-Dade teachers are not being ordered back to the classroom. Instead, the district said it periodically reviews the needs of teachers and students.

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Meanwhile, underperforming students taking part in online learning in both Broward and Miami-Dade Counties are also being asked to return to in-person learning.

“We are transitioning to a more traditional educational experience in the classroom,” said Runcie.

He said as the District tries to bring back students who are falling behind, they’ll need more teachers.  Their parents, however, can sign a waiver to keep them home.

Runcie said schools are safe for students and teachers.

“I’d say they’re probably safer than going to the grocery store, the mall or other places that people continue to go,” Runcie said.

CBSMiami.com Team