SPRINGFIELD – Today, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) announced a medical review panel that will determine if school district re-opening plans are safe for students, staff and communities.
The panel, which will consist of more than a dozen doctors, will review district plans that educators fear may not be safe under public health guidelines. The panel will then determine whether the plans meet a list of commonly agreed upon protocols.
“We will be watching to make sure our students’ and educators’ health and safety is being protected. And if the panel finds a district is operating in a way that puts lives at risk, we will do everything in our power to keep people safe,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said.
The partnership came about after the IEA discovered that the State of Illinois had encouraged districts to resume in-person learning and set forth public health guidelines, but did not design a system where districts’ “Return to Learn” plans could be either assessed or enforced.
IEA President Kathi Griffin said the IEA has worked collaboratively with the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Public Health, with all of the education stakeholders in Illinois, but when it became clear there was no method of assessment or enforcement of health and safety measures for the in-person education plans, the union decided to make its own.
“There is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of the students of this state and those who work to teach, feed, lead, drive, coach, mentor and provide essential services to them in our schools,” Griffin said. “We kept asking, ‘OK, so if we don’t think the district’s plan meets the state standards or the AAP’s standards, where do we go?’ No one could answer. So, we turned to our longtime partners at ICAAP.”
ICAAP has enlisted a dozen doctors to review plans and is working to secure more.
“ICAAP is happy to partner with the IEA to provide expert guidance on our shared goal of opening schools safely in Illinois,” said Daniel Johnson, MD, FAAP member of ICAAP Executive Committee and Interim Chief of Section of Pediatric Infectious Disease at University of Chicago.
“Schools are an important safety net for children and we look forward to working to protect the health of students, teachers and staff while working to ensure access to the essential services provided at school.”
If a district’s plan is deemed unsafe by the panel of medical experts from ICAAP, the local will inform the district of the changes that need to be made to ensure all are safe and the environment is healthy. If that isn’t done, the IEA will work with the local to enforce the health and safety guidelines that have been set forth by experts.
“As we promised last week when we announced in partnership with the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), no avenue or action is off the table – the courts, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board – nothing, including health and safety strikes. The entire weight of the IEA and the IFT will be used in whatever way is necessary to protect the students of this state and those who educate them,” Griffin said.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.