The leader of a teachers union in Washington state is facing criticism after he said that reopening efforts are fueled by "white supremacy" and concerns over lockdown suicides were "white privilege."
Scott Wilson, the president of the Pasco Association of Educators, made the comments during a Jan. 12 school board meeting, according to the Tri-City Herald.
"We must not ignore the culture of white supremacy and white privilege. We have seen it in the 'free to breathe,' reopen everything, rodeos and rallies that received county commissioner support. The same county commissioner directs our health," Wilson said.
"No one wants remote learning, but it is the right thing to do. We know the equity concerns, virus transmission is high, heading higher, with so many ignoring and avoiding measures to stop the spread, remote learning is the right decision," he added.
Wilson also compared the efforts to reopen schools to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by those angry with the election results. He later addressed letters to the board from parents calling teachers lazy and demanding the reopening of schools.
"They complain their students are suicidal without school or sports," said Wilson. "As a father daily surviving the suicide of my son, I find these statements ignorant and another expression of white privilege. Huge daily death tolls from this pandemic, seditious attacks on our Capitol, plus a new, more transmittable strain of the virus while our case numbers are rising again."
Some teachers were upset by the characterization from Wilson and pushed back in the form of a letter circulated on Facebook that demanded the teachers leave the union over his comments.
"After the alarming comments made by our (PAE) President Scott Wilson last week, we can no long stay silent," the letter said. "This is not a true representation of what we as teachers feel we sacrifice and strive to teach students of all colors, cultures and backgrounds."
Wilson said in a statement to the Herald that coronavirus infection concerns were more deeply felt among Latino families because of the greater preponderance of multi-generational households.
"We need to ensure that the educational experience is equitable between remote and in-person, because if we're focusing on face-to-face without making our remote system robust, we're perpetuating inequities in educational opportunities that already exist," he added.