Liz McCormick Published

W.Va. Education Union Files Injunction As Governor Defends School Re-Entry Map

West Virginia Education Association's President Dale Lee attends a Senate Education Committee meeting on Jan. 24 2019.

The West Virginia Education Association, which is West Virginia’s largest teachers’ union in the state, filed an injunction Monday morning challenging the safety of the governor’s school re-entry map.

The injunction claims the state map is unsafe and under constant manipulation by state officials just to get students back into brick-and-mortar classrooms.

The injunction also seeks to temporarily suspend the map, as well as the enforcement of the West Virginia Open Meeting Act as it relates to the panel that meets prior to the map’s posting on Saturday nights.

The school re-entry map is determined by a panel of experts every Saturday from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Department of Education.

Last week, WVEA President Dale Lee announced his intention to file the injunction with the Kanawha County Circuit Court. It was officially filed Monday.

“We know how important it is for students to be back in classrooms working with their teachers,” Lee said in a news release. “No one wants in-person education more than our members, but they no longer feel their safety is the top priority of our state government’s leadership. Our goal is for students to return to school as soon as possible but we must be able to do that safely based on the circumstances in individual counties.”

The union points to Harvard’s color-coded map, which shows a higher rate of COVID-19 spread in the state. The union is calling on Gov. Jim Justice to follow this map, or independent health experts, instead.

Justice responded to the injunction in a recent virtual press briefing.

“If we were going just by the Harvard model, we know, we would have a third to a half of the state of West Virginia, probably the safest state in the nation, a third to a half of the state would be shut down,” Justice said. “You know, from the standpoint of being in school … We know 70 percent of the people in the state of West Virginia wanted to go back to school.”

The governor argues the move by the union is political.