UPDATE: AFT-WV files for temporary restraining order suit against in-person schooling

UPDATE (1/20/21):

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The American Federation of Teachers for West Virginia has filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County against state education officials to protect the health and safety of students, teachers, and the community in West Virginia, according to the organization.

Officials explained that specifically, AFT-WV seeks a temporary restraining order and/or injunctive relief to enjoin in-person teaching until all education employees have the opportunity to have the second vaccine which is scheduled to be provided in the first and second week of February.  

Kanawha and Monongalia counties were both named in the suit according to a release from AFT-WV.

AFT-WV is also seeking to protect and affirm the important role of local boards of education in protecting the health and safety of the community and their students and education employees.  Local control of such decisions is vital to the effective operation of 55 school systems in this very diverse state, according to AFT officials.

Officials explained that the case will consist of the following legal claims:

  • A temporary restraining order and/or injunctive relief in Kanawha County; and 
  • A declaratory judgment and mandamus that would, in all likelihood,  protect the constitutional rights of teachers and service personnel statewide.

Stay with 12 News as we will continue to update this developing story as more information becomes available.

To view more information about the suit, click here.

ORIGINAL (1/20/21):

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Board of Education held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to follow up on its decision of the previous week that all schools should offer some form of in-person learning for students.

As of Wednesday, 52 of the state’s 55 counties have voted to provide an in-person learning option. Boards of education in Gilmer, Marion and Taylor counties have voted to remain remote, based on local COVID rates.

Superintendents in Gilmer, Marion and Taylor counties all support some level of in-person learning, but their local boards of education have voted against it, State Superintendent Clayton Burch said.

Burch told the board that he “cannot support depriving families of that option.”

“The safest workplace and the safest place for children in our state, is in a school,” said state board member Stanley Maynard.

“By closing our schools, the people we hurt most are the most disadvantaged,” said board member James Wilson.

Board member Debra Sullivan suggested that the state board invite officials from the three remaining counties to meet with the state board to learn more about the individual counties’ challenges. Burch said that he’s already spoken to the those counties and doesn’t believe bringing officials in is necessary, laying the blame on the local boards of education. However, when questioned by the state board, Burch was not able to offer all of the specifics the board was looking for on why the three remaining counties made the decisions they made.

Another board member suggested holding virtual meetings with the state board and the local county boards.

“They are not going to do it their way, it’s not going to happen!”, said state President Miller Hall, referring to the three counties. “I hope they’re listening. Get it done!” Hall continued. “How much time are we going to give them?” Hall asked.

Legal counsel for the state board reported that it’s possible recourses are:

  • The state could withhold funding from counties
  • The state board could intervene in the counties
  • The state board could declare days that in-person learning isn’t offered don’t count as official school days, meaning those days would have to be made up
  • The state could restrict students in those counties from participating in extracurricular activities, like sports
  • The state board could take legal action against the counties, as could parents in those counties

Several board members, including Hall, suggested waiting until the state board’s next meeting, which is set for January 26 at 10:00 a.m., before taking any further action, which is how the meeting ended.

Several counties, including Harrison and Monongalia counties, made last minute decisions to offer in-person options.

On Tuesday, West Virginia State Senate Democrats issued a statement calling for school decisions to be made locally.

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