The Louisiana State Department of Education released guidelines for the re-opening of schools next month, but the guidelines leave more questions than answers.
Even though COVID-19 cases in Louisiana are steadily rising, the state’s decision to reopen schools could put thousands of students and employees at risk.
Acknowledging that problem, there is a bill being debated in the Senate that would shield school systems and universities from personal injury lawsuits because of the reopening mandate.
HB59, sponsored by Rep. Buddy Mincey of Livingston, will basically shield colleges and universities from lawsuits by prohibiting “causes of action related to the contraction of COVID-19.”
It means that parents or faculty of schools that reopen can order students to attend classes, ride buses, and assemble during the COVID-19 crisis, but not held responsible if someone gets sick or dies.
Mincey says the law is designed to discourage local districts from switching to total distance learning or virtual instruction because of civil liability concerns.
At the core of that concern is “money.” The unspoken truth is virtual instruction is a safe alternative, but it means fewer teachers, maids, janitors, crossing guards, resource officers, etc.
Complete virtual learning also introduces parents to the entire world of “home-schooling.” Virtual learning means learning at home and threatens the whole premise of traditional public schools, which is a major business in Louisiana.
If thousands of parents opt out of the public school program and switch to homeschooling, or state-approved K-12 virtual schools, it would affect the MFP of local districts and basically “mess with their money.”
HB59 will encourage school districts to open up to keep the money flowing, without risk of being sued if someone gets sick or dies.
Page four of the Education Department’s guidelines advise schools to “expect that there will be students who get COVID-19 or that these students will possibly expose other students/staff in the school setting.”
Any student that is sick for any reason can stay home.
Students who have had contact with COVID positive persons can stay home for up to 14 days per instance without repercussions.
Similar rules for staff would apply.
It all means that returning to the physical school plant is dangerous, but necessary to keep the money flowing.
There will be sickness and even death as a result of reopening in a COVID climate, but the districts will get paid as long as students are on roll.
If HB59 becomes law, students and faculty who fall victim to COVID because of attendance and work requirements of a school district will not get paid. There is no option for victims if school districts are negligent.
It’s a bad proposal that has passed the house and is up for a vote in the Senate. Representatives Micheal Echols voted for its passage. Rep. Fred Jones and Pat Moore voted against the measure.
It’s all about the money.