A union official in the Hatboro-Horsham school district defended a policy of closed classrooms by pointing to parents who were weary of “babysitting” their children, according to an email.
That message from Brian Moore, a teacher and the president of the Hatboro-Horsham Education Association union, was sent to a school administrator on Nov. 11, 2020, just a day before some students were scheduled to return to class for hybrid instruction.
According to the HHEA website, the union is a local branch of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
“We are not a childcare center and I fear ‘babysitting’ drove parents to demand an amount of in-person instruction,” Moore began. “[H]igh school students simply wanting to be in school also doesn’t qualify as a legitimate reason to bring them back.”
Hatboro-Horsham was about to phase in a hybrid model, and according to a district document. Ninth graders were set to return to hybrid learning on Nov. 12, while high school students would return Nov. 16.
“We are not a childcare center and I fear ‘babysitting’ drove parents to demand an amount of in-person instruction.”
– Brian Moore, president of the Hatboro-Horsham Education Association union
The email was obtained via a Right to Know Law request by Clarice Schillinger of Horsham Township, the creator of the political action committee “Keeping Kids in School.” She formed the PAC this year to try and counter school districts that were avoiding bringing students back into the classroom full-time.
Schillinger, who also previously had children enrolled in the district, released the email Monday.
Moore did not immediately return requests for comment. If one is provided later, this story will be updated.
At the time of the email exchange, the long-anticipated “fall surge” of COVID cases had come to fruition. Just a couple of days later, the Montgomery County Board of Health voted unanimously to make schools go all-virtual from Nov. 23 to Dec. 6, in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus from Thanksgiving gatherings.
Around the same time, several reports and studies were published confirming that most of the online and hybrid models hastily created by school districts in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis were underperforming.
Moore later said in the email that the attempt to get students in school was being driven by politics.
“Schools could have low transmission rates, but we don’t know that; so, we need to rely on what we do know and that’s the guidance,” from government offices like the state and county departments of health, he added.
Schillinger said parents should take note of the exchange.
“Many children in this school district are failing, struggling with depression, anxiety, loss of peer interactions, and are not thriving in a remote environment due to special needs and for other reasons,” Schillinger said. “In the mind of [Hatboro-Horsham Education Association] leadership, however, the desire for ‘babysitting’ is what is driving the push to reopen schools. The public should be aware of the dismissive view of the union’s leadership and their strenuous opposition to reopening schools.”
Schillinger’s drive to see students return to the classroom has resulted in a head on confrontation with teachers’ unions.
Many children in this school district are failing, struggling with depression, anxiety, loss of peer interactions, and are not thriving in a remote environment due to special needs and for other reasons
Also using emails obtained through open records requests, Schillinger previously accused a teacher’s union of “strong-arming” the Central Bucks School District into staying closed.
Other frank comments about “babysitting” from members of the Northern California based Oakley Union Elementary School Board generated national backlash.
In that instance, several school board members spoke over a videoconferencing channel while mistakenly thinking the video was not being broadcast to the public.
“They forget that there’s real people on the other side of those letters that they’re writing,” the school board’s president, Lisa Brizendine, said. “It’s really unfortunate that they want to pick on us, because they want their babysitters back.”
Kim Beede, another Okley Union School Board member, told of an interaction with an angry parent, and then described her own disposition: “Bitch, if you are going to call me out, I am going to fuck you up.”
The entire school board resigned after the video was published on Youtube and the story gained national attention.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com.