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Kaine Calls On Trump Administration To Protect Students, Teachers, School Staff, And Workers In Face Of Novel Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senator Patty Murray to call on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to provide details on their Departments’ plans for preparedness and response efforts to protect the safety and health of students, teachers, school staff, and workers in light of the emerging threat of the novel coronavirus.

The Senators asked Secretary DeVos to provide more information regarding the role and responsibilities of the Department’s COVID-19 task force, how the Department is communicating with federal public health officials, what information the Department has provided to school districts and institutions of higher education, if the Department has considered the impact of the coronavirus on students with disabilities, students from food-insecure families, and students experiencing homelessness. The Senators also expressed their concern about media reports of bullying, harassment and discrimination of students of Asian descent, and urged the Department to issue specific guidance to remind schools of their legal obligation to protect the civil rights of students and staff and responsibility to prevent and address discrimination.

“As public health officials warn about the likely spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States, we write to understand how the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) is preparing for the possible spread of the virus and communicating with frontline stakeholders, school districts, state educational agencies, and institutions of higher education about how to best protect students, teachers, and other staff,” wrote the Senators in a letter to Secretary DeVos.

The Senators asked Secretary Scalia to provide more information regarding how the Department is communicating with federal public health officials, what information the Department has given to workers and employers, and what steps it has taken to ensure the safety and health of workers–especially those on the front lines of the government’s coronavirus response such as health care workers and federal and state employees. The Senators also stressed to Secretary Scalia the need to protect low-income workers and workers who may not have the option to work remotely.

“As businesses work to develop plans to respond to COVID-19, it is critical we ensure they are taking the best interests of workers into account. Businesses and workers must be provided with up-to-date information so they can base decisions on facts and science,” wrote the senators in a letter to Secretary Scalia.

In order to better understand each Department’s role in the federal government’s coronavirus preparedness and response efforts, the Senators requested answers to their questions no later than March 9.

A PDF of the letter to Secretary DeVos is available HERE.

A PDF Of the letter to Secretary Scalia is available HERE.