Chicago Teachers Union Tells Members Not to Disclose COVID Vaccine Status

March 17, 2021 Updated: March 17, 2021

The Chicago teachers union in a recent letter advised members to keep secret about whether they’d received a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Last week, Chicago Public Schools announced a new Board Rule allowing it to instruct all employees to provide CPS their vaccination status by tomorrow. Remember, CPS made this request without notifying or negotiating with the Union,” the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) said in the letter.

“We asked all members last week to wait for our legal review of the matter before completing the CPS form. We continue to recommend that members wait to respond to the vaccination survey form, despite CPS announcing a deadline of tomorrow.”

The letter was obtained and published by CBS Chicago.

A CTU spokesperson didn’t immediately return requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

The Chicago Board of Education on Feb. 24 unanimously approved requiring all Chicago Public School (CPS) employees to tell the district whether they’ve gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is important … for us to be able to track who has received the vaccine, for a variety of reasons,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said during the board’s meeting. “And then we will make public any changes where we would require individuals to have a vaccine.”

The policy (pdf) also says that the CPS CEO may require a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of hire or continued employment.

“Right now, as many of you are aware, the vaccine is under emergency authorization approval, so we could not make it mandatory—even if we thought that was a good idea at this point. For right now, the major focus is on tracking so that we know where we are as a school system,” Jackson said during the meeting.

Chicago Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady told reporters last month that she was supportive of employers requiring the disclosure of vaccination status and posited that requiring vaccination may be coming in the future.

“I do not see a setting where the city of Chicago would say all Chicago residents, ‘You need to be vaccinated.’ I do not see that coming at any point, just to be very clear. But I do think we may see settings down the line where we may see businesses or others decide to make that part of their practices, and it’s going to be a major space to really watch over the next months to come,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, background right, waves to students in a preschool classroom at Dawes Elementary School in Chicago, on Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CPS says it’s offered vaccination opportunities to more than 52,374 employees as of March 14. Additionally, 5,640 vaccinations among staffers have been confirmed.

“The district is able to report confirmation of vaccinations from its own sites but will rely on self-reported data to gather a greater understanding of how many employees received vaccination through our healthcare partnerships or independently,” CPS said on its website.

The city says it’s prioritizing vaccinations for school staffers and other employees in roles described as “frontline” and “essential.”

Employees can schedule vaccination appointments, though it may take weeks to get a vaccination date due to limited vaccine supplies.

“We are doing everything in our power to vaccinate educators as quickly as possible in an equitable manner,” CPS told parents and students in announcing last month a deal to reopen schools with the union.

Like most unions, the Chicago Teachers Union pushed for teachers to be vaccinated before reopening schools to in-person instruction. However, public health officials say vaccinations aren’t required to reopen schools safely, provided certain safety measures are implemented.

CPS and CTU officials have repeatedly clashed in recent weeks over school reopening, vaccinations, and other issues. They reached a reopening plan in February that has since brought all students except for high school students back for in-person instruction.

CPS officials in a letter to parents and students on March 16 said that April 19 is the target date for high school students to return to classrooms, amid ongoing negotiations with the union.

But CTU President Jesse Sharkey told members in response that “we have no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely.”

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