Georgia Teachers Protest Working Conditions After Colleague Dies of COVID-19

Elementary school teachers in Stockbridge, Georgia, protested having to work on-site on Monday, January 4, after one of their colleagues died of COVID-19.

This footage, filmed by Stockbridge Councilman Elton Alexander, shows teachers standing outside of Stockbridge Elementary School for the demonstration on Monday morning. The video shows people holding signs that read “Let’s go remote,” “Dying was not in my job description,” and “One death is too many!”

The protest also served as a memorial for LuAnn Burns, a kindergarten teacher at Stockbridge Elementary School who died last week. Burns worked at the elementary school since 2000, according to her teacher’s bio.

“The teachers are scared of being next to die,” Alexander told Storyful.

The footage also shows groups of people gathered in the parking lot, some sitting down while using laptops. Alexander said on Facebook that the teachers were working remotely outside of the elementary school as a “symbolic gesture.” According to Alexander, school officials said those working outdoors must use a sick day.

A spokesman for Henry County Schools confirmed to Storyful that staff were told they would lose a day of leave if they remained outside the building.

“Many employees at Stockbridge Elementary continued to remain outside of their workspaces once the school day started, and they were reminded of their professional commitments within the building,” he said. “They were also informed that remaining in the parking lot and not reporting inside the building would necessitate an accompanying personal day of leave.”

He said “the loss of any employee is tough for our school district, but we remain committed to supporting our employees and anyone affected by the passing of a colleague or teacher.”

When children return to Henry County schools from their winter break on January 11, they can opt for in-person or remote learning. “All employees” are required to work in person, though some may request different requirements based on a family member’s “serious health condition,” according to Henry County Schools.

Monday’s demonstration fell on a “school-based professional learning day” for staff and teachers, according to Henry County Schools’ calendar. Credit: Elton Alexander via Storyful