Head of teachers’ union who pushed for school closures seen taking kid to private preschool

The head of a California teachers’ union who advocated to keep public schools closed appeared to justify taking his daughter to an in-person preschool after being spotted dropping her off.

Berkeley Federation of Teachers president Matt Meyer was called out as a hypocrite by a group calling itself Guerrilla Momz after he was seen dropping off his two-year-old.

“Meet Matt Meyer. White man with dreads and president of the local teachers’ union. He’s been saying it is unsafe for *your kid* to be back at school, all the while dropping his kid off at private school,” the group posted, along with a slickly-produced video blasting a decision to keep public schools in Berkeley closed for a year while “our children are suffering learning loss, social isolation, and mental health breakdowns.”

In a statement to Fox News, Meyer criticized the fact that he was caught, calling the video “very inappropriate” and an infringement on the privacy of his daughter, though her face was blurred out.

He also tried to explain that, at present, there are “no public options for kids her age.”

“There are major differences in running a small preschool and a 10,000 student public school district in terms of size, facilities, public health guidance and services that legally have to be provided,” Meyer told the network. 

“We all want a safe return to school. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers is excited that Berkeley Unified will be reopening soon with a plan, supported by our members and the district, to get our students back in classrooms starting later this month,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing numerous studies, has said reopening schools for in-person instruction is safe for children and teachers. Also, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and the country’s lead immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is in agreement with CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky that it isn’t necessary for teachers to be vaccinated before returning to classrooms.

Nevertheless, earlier this month the Berkeley Unified School District reached a deal with the Berkeley Federation of Teachers to reopen schools beginning late this month and into April, but only if teachers and school staff were able to get vaccinated, according to a memorandum of understanding posted online.

But even then, reopening will be phased in over several weeks, leaving just a few months remaining in the academic year.

Also, the agreement calls for staff to obtain COVID testing every couple of weeks, to be provided at school sites. The school district and the teachers’ union would also press families to get tested routinely — at least once every two weeks.

Teachers identified as high risk, per the CDC, meanwhile, or who live with someone with a high-risk medical condition, will be permitted to continue remotely working.

That said, a group called BUSD parents, which is associated with another group pushing for in-person classes – Reopen Schools California – said recent data indicates that classroom instruction is safe and that there is no need for any further delays.

As for Meyer, some came to his defense, including Mara Kolesas, a former PTA Berkeley Council president. She told KQED that she gets that parents are angry and frustrated and agrees that schools should be opened, but the video by Guerrilla Momz went too far.

“For me, you don’t need to attack people personally, you need to address it politically. When you start getting personal, you mix up dimensions, and you don’t get to discuss the real thing,” she said. “Here, the real thing is [Meyer] put fear before science, and the right of teachers before the right of kids. That’s the issue.”

Still, other parents blasted Meyer and the school district’s continued closure.

“I am a physician. It is definitively the scientific agreement that it is possible to deliver safe in-person education,” Dr. Shelene Stine, who treats COVID patients at an area hospital and is the parent of three-year-old twins and a five-year-old kindergartener, told KQED. 

“It’s infuriating to know Matt Meyer says kids can’t wear masks when kids in his preschool wear them all day long,” Stine, whose twins attend the same private school as Meyer’s daughter, but whose five-year-old is learning remotely, added.

The founder of Reopen Schools California, Jonathan Zachreson, also blasted Meyer for his apparent hypocrisy. 

“So why is that safe for him and those people who work there (at the preschool), but not for all of the kids in Berkeley Unified and the teachers? The answer is: It is safe,” he said.

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Jon Dougherty

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