Coronavirus: Teacher writes own ‘obituary’ in protest at plans to reopen schools

Whitney Reddick said she had ‘succumbed to the ignorance of those in power’

Matt Mathers@MattEm90
Monday 10 August 2020 17:29
Coronavirus in numbers

A Florida teacher wrote her own obituary in protest at plans to reopen schools in the state amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whitney Reddick, 33, said that she had “succumbed to the ignorance of those in power”, in a message posted on her Facebook page.

Ms Reddick, a special education teacher working in Jacksonville, penned the obituary after Florida’s state commissioner last week issued an executive order that requires all schools to open for at least five days per week by the autumn.

The executive order was issued as Florida continued to be ravaged by the virus.

“With profound sadness, I announce the passing of Whitney Leigh Reddick,” the obituary begins. “She left us while alone in isolation and on a ventilator at a Duval county hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.”

Ms Reddick went on to describe how her family – including her 14-month-old son – would be devastated by the loss.

“Being so young his memories of her will fade and he will only have those that were captured in film. He will have a hole only a few children bear,” Ms Reddick said of her son.

“She fought with vigor for things she believed in,” the obituary goes on. “She stood up to injustice, embraced those who differed from her, and truly listened when spoken to.

“Whitney never took the easy path, she was assertive, strong-willed, and bossy, she loved that word because, to her, it meant female leadership.”

The obituary then describes how Ms Reddick goes back to school in Autumn as instructed but later dies from the virus.

“She returned to work, did her best to handle all the roles placed on her shoulders; educator, COVID-security guard, human shield, firefighter, social worker, nurse, and caregiver but the workload weakened her, and the virus took hold.”

The reopening of schools has been a controversial issue in Florida and in several other states across the country.

Those in favour of pupils resuming lessons argue that there is very little evidence to suggest that children are susceptible to the disease.

And some experts have said that keeping children out of school poses a far greater risk to their health and development than the virus does.

But teachers working in the profession have argued that the risks are too high, arguing they face a unique set of challenges in trying to get children to practise social distancing.

Ms Reddick later told NBC News that she decided to post the obituary after reading stories about teachers in other states who had died with the virus.

“It was an overwhelming sadness,” she told the network. “It just stuck with me that, I may not pass away, but somebody is going to. To me, somebody who does something to serve their community and has a serving heart, I don’t want to lose that person.”

“I wanted to portray that sadness ... and being introspective and thinking about the choices that our lawmakers are making,” she explained. “I really wanted the gravity of their decisions to weigh.”

By Monday afternoon, Florida had reported 533,000 infections, with 6,229 of those coming previous 24 hours alone, according to official figures. Some 8,185 people in the state have died with the virus.

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