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Suwannee County School Board to hear grievance as Teachers Union argues they haven’t been kept safe during pandemic

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WCTV | by Monica Casey | October 26, 2020

SUWANNEE COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) – COVID-19 numbers in Suwannee County schools show 12 total cases during the week of October 11-17; the chart indicates that at least one of those positive cases is a teacher.

The School District has a Level III Grievance Hearing with the Suwannee County Teachers Union on Wednesday; the Union President, Eric Rodriguez, argues that the district has violated its contract with teachers by failing to keep them safe.

Rodriguez first spoke to WCTV in August about the lack of masks in schools; he told WCTV and CBS Nightly News that he believes students should be doing in-person learning, but that masks are necessary, especially because of the positive cases before the year started.

“When we were asking for the mask mandate before school opened, you know, hey we already know students and employees who are positive, let’s do the safest thing possible and wear masks for the safety of everyone,” said Rodriguez back in August.

Video footage that Rodriguez provided to CBS Nightly News resulted in his placement on administrative leave; he tells WCTV the district said he endangered the students by videotaping. The administrative leave ultimately resulted in a one-day unpaid suspension for Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says he and his attorney agreed not to fight the decision because of the penalty, but he says he still doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.

Apart from that issue, Rodriguez has filed a grievance against the School District in his capacity as the President of the Suwannee County Teachers Union.

The Level I grievance was denied by the school administrator; the Level II grievance was denied by the Superintendent, Ted Roush.

On Tuesday, the Level III grievance will be before the Suwannee County School Board; they’ll hear from Rodriguez and Roush.

If the School Board dismisses his complaint, Rodriguez says he’s ready to go to arbitration, in which an independent arbitrator will come in to review the issue.