UTLA Statement on Buscaino’s attempt to put lives in danger by forcing an unsafe return

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LOS ANGELES — We are gratified that L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer has rejected City Council Member Joe Buscaino's misguided attempt to sue LA Unified School District to force the unsafe reopening of school campuses even as more variants are found spreading in the community that are far more contagious than the original coronavirus.

Buscaino’s motion, seconded by City Council Member Gilbert Cedillo, is political theater that opportunistically feeds off of people’s frustrations. It also clearly panders to the business community’s desire to accelerate employees’ return to work even as COVID-19 outbreaks at workplaces have soared dramatically. This push for unsafe reopenings is harmful to all of Los Angeles, but particularly the Black and Brown communities these two are supposed to represent.

UTLA stands with a group of more than 800 educators, parents, students and community members in Buscaino’s district who immediately went into action to condemn his political grandstanding, calling on him to instead focus efforts to reinvest in our schools to make them genuinely safe. Read the powerful letter with updated signatures here.

“Educators and parents are exhausted — exhausted by the challenges of distance learning and by watching elected officials prioritize the opening of malls, outdoor dining, and card rooms over controlling the virus so as to make it safe to return to school campuses,” said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz. “We are exhausted by having to fight to save lives in the face of politicians’ callous disregard for the illness and death hitting low-income communities of color.”

Black and Brown families are dying at disproportionately higher rates and getting vaccinated at disproportionately lower rates. Our schools are at the heart of these hard-hit communities, and educators feel a deep responsibility to advocate for our students and their parents. Buscaino needs to make clear how many lives he is willing to sacrifice to satisfy business interests and score political points with constituents who are far away from the front lines of the pandemic.

Threats of lawsuits do not change the underlying conditions in LA County, which is still suffering from COVID infection rates that make it unsafe to reopen schools. The path to a safe reopening must involve vaccines for school educators and staff, mitigation strategies (such as community vaccinations, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation/quarantine), and low community transmission rates. That is the path based on science that puts the health and safety of our school staff, our students, and their families before politics.

“We call on Buscaino to stop the divisive rhetoric,” Myart-Cruz said. “Instead, we want to know what will he and other local and state officials do in these next crucial weeks to get the virus under control in order to save lives and reopen schools?”