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Parents fight back, Don Jr. trolls: ‘OMG, when you’ve lost the crazies in LA, you’re doing it all wrong!

Parents of children attending public schools in Los Angeles are planning a Zoom blackout to protest the teachers’ union’s continued resistance to in-person learning despite government health guidelines that say it is safe during the lingering pandemic.

“Scientists have said, experts have said, doctors have said, it’s time to open schools. I read today Pasadena has opened schools, Calabasas has opened their schools, many cities are opening their schools. Why is LA County lagging?” Betty Gabbaie, the mother of three school-aged children, asked, according to ABC7.

Gabbaie is a member of a Facebook group called United Parents Los Angeles, which is demanding that the city’s public schools reopen after getting the go-ahead from the Los Angeles County Department of Health that doing so is safe.

“I’ve had teachers message me saying they are ready, they want to go back,” Gabbaie noted further, according to the outlet. The Facebook group called for a Zoom blackout on Monday as well as having parents walk to their children’s schools to protest for reopening, ABC7 reported, as they even got the attention of Donald Trump Jr.

School district officials have been struggling to come to terms with the teachers’ union over the issue of vaccinations. Officials have said they want teachers and staff to be vaccinated before they return to in-person instruction.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner has also said that he wants to focus on vaccinating communities that have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Why aren’t we vaccinating them today. It would take less than 1% of the doses coming to the state of California over the next two weeks to reopen all of our elementary school classes,” he said, according to ABC7.

The United Teachers Los Angeles union has also said it opposes in-person classes, allegedly over health concerns for teachers and students.

But in addition to the L.A. Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that, according to the latest research, it isn’t necessary to vaccinate teachers and students before returning to in-person instruction.

“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House coronavirus press conference earlier this month.

“Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,” she added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki would later walk back Walensky’s comments, saying that they were not “official guidance” from her agency.

Still, in January the CDC released a study showing that there has been little if any transmission of the virus in schools, and certainly not enough to justify continued closures.

“The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring,” three CDC scientists wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “There has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”

“The conclusion here is with proper prevention efforts . . . we can keep transmission in schools and educational settings quite low,” Margaret A. Honein, the report’s lead author, wrote. “We didn’t know that at the beginning of the year but the data has really accumulated.”

By comparison, schools in the vast majority of European countries remained open for most of the past year, with little negative effects from the virus, even as the deadly second wave swept the planet.

“It is still difficult for me to understand why schools are closed in the United States,” Otto Helve, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare who has been studying COVID-19 school transmission rates, said in December. “Schools are not driving the pandemic.”

Other European health officials have said their schools have been holding in-person classes because they have emphasized public education.

“It’s not that we think schools are no danger, that there’s no effect,” Steven Van Gucht, chief of viral diseases at the Belgian public health agency, said. “Schools are the last thing to close, they’re really the last thing on the list. There is political pressure and societal pressure. We consider schooling an absolute priority.”

But UTLA officials have pushed back against in-person classes even though the LAUSD has spent $2 billion in CARES Act funding to improve school ventilation systems and implement a range of other safety measures.

“The district is very clearly legally able to tell (UTLA) guess what, we’re opening next week. Here are the precautions we have taken,” Dr. Houman Hemmati told ABC7. “But they are afraid of standing up to the unions because they are afraid of the backlash.”

He went on to criticize union leaders for their recalcitrance in the face of evidence and research indicating in-person classes are safe.

“The parents have started to question the union’s motives here and say, ‘you know what, regardless of what you are trying to do, the ultimate outcome is you are hurting our kids. You’re even hurting the teachers who want to come back,’” he said.

Jon Dougherty

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