Legendary Harvard-trained civil rights attorney Michael Sussman has sent a letter to NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and UFT President Michael Mulgrew representing New York Teachers For Choice (NYTFC). The letter presents our objections to having never received an answer to whether our DNA will be cataloged if we consent to in-school COVID testing, and offers a simple, amicable solution.
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We thank Sussman greatly for recognizing our valid concerns and lending his weight behind them. Read the letter for yourself below; download and share the pdf of the original letter:
October 19, 2020
To: Hon. Richard A. Carranza, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Hon. Michael Mulgrew, President, NY City UFT [email@example.com]
From: Michael H. Sussman, Esq.
Re: COVID testing policies
First, let me thank you and all those you represent and work with for making strong efforts to bring our New York City Schools back into operation.
Second, some of those you represent, organized through New York City Teachers for Choice, have contacted my law office with significant complaints about the means and methods of implementation to which you have committed as schools re-open. This letter addresses one of their principal concerns. I write in a spirit of problem-solving because that is what the times demand.
1. As I understand the UFT/DOE agreement, between 10-20% of a school building’s teachers [depending on the student enrollment at a specific school] are to be tested monthly for COVID. All teachers not otherwise excused from reporting to their buildings must agree to such mandatory testing or face unpaid leave. Teachers who have contacted me reasonably complain that Fulgent Genetics, the company which won the bid to administer these COVID tests, has established its own DNA data base and may intend to contribute their DNA to that data base. They view this as an unwarranted use of their genetic information, an invasion of their privacy rights and an impermissible exploitation by that company for its own profit. Several of these teachers have contacted union, DOE and state officials to clarify the terms of the agreement between this company and the DOE. To date, no one has explicated the terms of the contract or definitively assured them that the noted concerns are unwarranted.
2. In light of your actual program design, I would suggest that if you are unable to provide the assurances needed to satisfy these teachers, it would be most prudent to solicit volunteers amongst your faculty cadre who want to participate in this regular testing program and allow others, like those I represent, to opt out. I am convinced that you will elicit the requisite participation from faculty desirous of obtaining regular testing for free and so avoid further conflict with those who believe that the possibility of use/misuse of their genetic information outweighs the advantages of such testing. From the program’s perspective, since you are NOT requiring that every teacher be tested and only seek to obtain results from a relatively small sample of available teachers, this approach should work and obviate conflict.
While I understand that the nation, our state and city have become increasingly polarized with regard to the COVID-19 response, there are also practical ways to defuse emerging controversies for the benefit of all. I trust you will consider the above and advise whether you deem it practical. Thank you.
(signed by Michael Sussman, Esq.)
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