SPRINGFIELD – Today, the unions representing teachers and support staff in the Edwardsville and Triad school districts filed a motion to intervene in a Madison County lawsuit in an effort to protect the safety of the workplaces and the health and lives of students and employees by keeping the governor’s vaccine-or-test order in place.
In late September, three teachers from the Triad Community Unity School District #2 and seven from the Edwardsville Community Unit District #7 filed a lawsuit claiming the districts did not have the authority to tell school employees they need to either be vaccinated or to test at least once a week for the COVID-19 virus. Instead, the suit says, these decisions should be left solely to local health department authorities and that the order should be lifted.
The court filings today were made on behalf of the 660 combined members of the Edwardsville Education Association (EEA) and Edwardsville School Service Personnel Association (ESSPA), and another 361 members of the Triad Education Association (TEA), Triad Educational Support Personnel Association (TESPA) and the Triad Custodial, Maintenance and Utility Association (TCMUA), combined.
The TEA surveyed its members in regard to the pandemic mitigation measures. And, the district has provided information on the number of vaccinated employees.
“Ninety percent of our members are vaccinated and the majority of those who aren’t are willingly complying with the testing process,” said Andrew Frey, president of the Triad Education Association. “We have been in person, almost entirely, since the start of the 2020-21 school year. We want that to continue. We know it’s what’s best for our students. But, we only do that if it’s safe for them and safe for all of the staff who work with them. We have trusted the science all along and we continue to do so.”
Safety is not limited to those who are in the buildings.
“I have two members who are married and have a child who goes to school in the district who was born with a severe lung issue,” said Jennifer Fowler, co-president of the EEA. “The only reason she has been allowed to attend school in person is because of the mitigation factors that have been put in place. The only reason this child’s parents have been able to work is because those mitigation factors have been put in place. It’s imperative to the lives of so many, and to the lives of so many they love, that the school environment be kept as safe as possible during this pandemic.”
Oral argument on the case is expected to be set in the coming days.
“The IEA proudly represents the educators in these districts and this filing represents those members’ true will,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the IEA. “We are respectfully asking the court to support the districts and the educators in this matter to ensure continued in-person instruction in a safe environment. We believe the governor did what was legal, prudent and necessary to provide the best educational environment for students and that the districts followed those executive orders because they were following the law, doing their best to keep our students and members safe.”
The five local associations represent more than 1,000 education employees in the two school districts. Those employees include teachers, school psychologists, social workers, speech/language specialists, nurses, custodial workers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, security and secretarial staff. There are about 11,500 students in the two districts.
At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.