Teachers around the country are terrified to return to school in the fall because the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere near under control. Many have taken to actually drafting their wills in case they should die from being forced back into the classroom.
One teacher, Whitney Reddick of Jacksonville, Florida, took her concern a step further and wrote her own obituary to protest the reopening of her school district. Florida's education commissioner has issued an executive order that requires all schools to open for "at least" five days a week in the fall, according to NBC News.
Whitney's obituary, which she posted on the Facebook page for the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team, reads, "With profound sadness, I announce the passing of Whitney Leigh Reddick. A loving and devoted teacher, mother, daughter, wife, aunt, and friend to all whose lives she touched, on August 7, 2020.
"She left us while alone in isolation and on a ventilator at a Duval county hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. She was in her 33rd year. Whitney was born on February 21, 1987, in Jacksonville, Florida to Charles and Fay Reddick, whom she is survived [by]."
Whitney's obituary tells the story of how she and her husband met, and goes on to tell the story of her one and only child, her son, Talon. "Talon turned 14 months the month his mother passed," it reads. "Being so young, his memories of her will fade and he will only have those that were captured in film."
In a powerful segment, Whitney writes, "Even though she shouted from the rooftops, attempted to be unemotional, and educated herself in facts and science, she succumbed to the ignorance of those in power. 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."
Whitney concludes the post by writing, "Please send your condolences to Governor Ron DeSantis, Mayor Lenny Curry, and finally the Duval County School Board and Superintendent."
Whitney told NBC News that she decided to write the obituary after reading several stories of teachers who have already contracted the virus from schools reopening in states like Georgia and Arizona. One teacher died from the coronavirus after sharing a classroom with two other teachers over the summer.
"It was an overwhelming sadness," Whitney said. "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."
She says she wrote the obituary to bring to the forefront many of the concerns that teachers have been expressing for months. Without a comprehensive treatment for COVID-19 and a vaccine a long way off, it really does seem like teachers (and students! and school staff! and families of students!) are being asked to potentially die just so we can return to a sense of normalcy. But going back to school will do the exact opposite.
I wanted to portray that sadness ... and being introspective and thinking about the choices that our lawmakers are making," Whitney said. "I really wanted the gravity of their decisions to weigh."
Whitney has ultimately decided to return when her school reopens on August 20. She said, "As much as I feel strongly about the stance that I have taken, if students are returning to a face-to-face setting, I'm going to be there to make sure that they have the best possible education in the safest environment I can provide."