Higher court snubs teachers, forces educators to in-person professional development in Cy-Fair ISD

Last week our local union, Cy-Fair AFT, sued Cy-Fair ISD to halt three weeks of in-person professional development required on campus for some 7,000 employees. Our position was on-site work could be dangerous, could violate local health orders, and shouldn’t be required, particularly when it could all be done remotely. The suit came after repeated attempts by the union to negotiate on the issue were ignored.

A Harris County District Court judge granted Cy-Fair AFT a temporary restraining order on the first day of training on Friday, August 14, thus stopping it. However, the district appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, which overturned that restraining order late Sunday evening, and in-person professional development on campuses started again on Tuesday.

Cy-Fair AFT President Nikki Cowart said that since the next hearing on the matter wouldn’t be until late into ongoing professional development, the union decided to drop the lawsuit. “This does not weaken our resolve to advocate for the safety of our students, our families, or ourselves,” she said. “We remain vigilant and determined to ensure that our schools remain safe and that we stop the spread of COVID-19. We will never be divided or stop fighting for the health and safety of our members and the students we serve.”

Full statement from Nikki Cowart, Cy-Fair AFT president:

This was never about politics or power or personal attacks for our members.

This was, and still is, about the very real safety concerns for our members and our CFISD community.

We commend the campus principals that have worked tirelessly to implement strict safety procedures, but unfortunately, in a district this size, you’re always going to have some campuses not adhering to the exact same measures. Our members saw that firsthand last Friday and believed we had no choice but to act.

We are frustrated and gravely concerned, especially for our medically fragile members, when we hear masks are encouraged rather than required. School leaders enforce dress codes they believe are professional for staff or appropriate for students, but they are not able to enforce mask-wearing to ensure the safety of everyone on campus? That double standard exemplifies the misplaced priorities of those who forced us into having no other choice than to take legal action.

The behaviors modeled by campus administrators and all employees during this professional development period will be the behaviors that set the standard for our students when they return.

If we can not get it right and take this seriously as adults, then how do we guarantee the safest environment for our students? We continue to ask that we work together to get it right before students return.

Our most precious commodity are our kids, and we know the kids are worth it. If the ripple effect from the actions of our Union saves one life, makes one teacher or parent or student safer, then that is a huge victory in and of itself.

We are leaving no stone unturned and are going to try with every opportunity to enforce safe standards for how we implement reopening plans. We hope we are wrong and no one gets sick or dies.

Regardless, we will be able to sleep at night knowing we have done what we believe is right over any court (or even court of public opinion) to protect our most vulnerable staff and students.

Will the members of the Texas Supreme Court be able to do the same? Will those state leaders going out of their way to diminish or eviscerate public health orders be able to sleep at night?