School Closing, Testing and SCI

Apr 17, 2020 by

In an almost unprecedented fluke of empathy for public school educators that was not driven by a hidden contradictory agenda, the New York Post editorial “Why Teachers Are Furious” ( 4/15) rose above habitual ideological strife and laid bare the apparently morally felonious conduct of the schools chancellor and his master the mayor.

Its use of the word “betrayal” captures the indignation and disillusion of tens of thousands of public servants who were blithely and cynically left in harm’s way as a calculated official decision to leave them ignorant of risk and exposed to lethal disease.

What are the wages of having blood on one’s hands?

The Special Commissioner for Investigations has launched an investigation into allegations that schools were specifically directed to suppress knowledge of confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 by not forwarding this information, as required, to the Department of Health, which certainly had a “need to know”. 

The allegation sounds binding.  Spellbinding.  

Crying out is airtight inescapable evidence which comes chillingly close to speaking for itself.  It is memorialized in an internal DOE memo sent when the acute pandemic crisis was already widely recognized.

This directive reflects a monumental abrogation of moral authority.  There should be commensurate legal ramifications, but rank has its privileges.

Perhaps it was not a crime but certainly it is a scandal. 

And when it blew up and came to light, the chancellor doubled down on his defense of the memo. That suggests the contents of the memo were not simply an error in judgement of which all people are capable, but an affirmation of contempt for his employees.

Delaying the closing of schools while possessing compelling science-based alarms of the peril, was beyond shameful.  It amounts to ethical turpitude.

And invoking the specious pretext that it was unnecessary in order to keep the pipeline of food open and provide persistent childcare services to parents in the midst of a plague is monstrously laughable.

It was a killer choice.

New York City schools remained open during a critical time of vulnerability, and it was for political, not educational reasons.  Private schools had in many cases been already shut, not out of an “abundance of caution” but out of necessity dictated by bloody reality.

A public school teacher who displayed unmistakable symptoms implicating the COVID-19n virus after a recent visit to northern Italy which was the epicenter of infection was not eligible to be tested. Several valuable days later the mayor relented but the damage might already have been done.

The teachers union couldn’t have made it clearer that in the interest of the entire school community, testing must include staff.

It is arguable whether the eventual closing of the schools was attributable primarily to common sense informed by draconian scenarios or the perceived possibility of educator insurrection.

To date, around 60 public school personnel have succumbed to the virus. Although mortality statistics were immediately available for other city agencies, they were unaccountability withheld from the public until later.

The DOE has made progress in the tone of its relations with educators since the inglorious days of chancellors Walcott and Klein under former mayor Bloomberg.  But at the moment they are a hot house of egregious judgement calls.

City Council member Robert Holden, who reportedly made the referral to SCI, said “This is the DOE’s M.O.  This is how they operate.  They were saying to us, they want to cover this up…”

Their serial transgressions in the school closing and staff testing matter do not negate their record of doing some good things, but they go a long way towards obscuring it and calling it perilously into question.

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