Juvenile Services teachers concerned about safety amid coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 9:43 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 23:18:16-04

Juvenile Services teachers and principals are still coming to work.

WMAR-2 News spoke to two employees who didn't want to be identified so we will call them employee A and B.

They are now classified as essential and they don't feel like precautions are in place to keep them safe.

“We cannot stay 6 feet away from people there are more than 10 people inside a classroom at a time,” said employee A. “In the halls we have RA’s teachers counselors.“

Employee B said they put a hand sanitizer pump out where they have to sign in and get searched but its now empty.

“Up at the school there is no cleaning staff that are allowed in anymore. Teachers have to empty their own trash, which the kids spit in the trash cans a lot.”

Both employees say they've had meetings with other staff on how to continue education remotely.

They feel like their concerns aren't being heard.

“We could do packets we can do other things to make sure the students are receiving some form of education,” employee A said. “We’ve talked about scanning them bringing them home, going and picking up packets and bringing them back or grading them that way.”

The employees said they haven't been given gloves, hand sanitizer, or wipes.

I emailed State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon about the concerns earlier today -- but haven't heard back.

“We shouldn’t be there ,we’re not essential, but they made us essential under Dr. Salmons order that for some reason teachers are now essential in these state schools when all other schools have been shut down.”

The State Department of Education released the following statement.

The Department of Juvenile Services is taking all preventive measures in our facilities to protect the health and well-being of DJS youth and staff from the possible exposure to the COVID-19 virus. The Department is following guidance from the Governor and the Health Department as well as the Center for Disease Control to minimize exposure to the virus.

Both DJS Secretary Sam Abed and the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon agreed that the normal school schedule would continue in all DJS facilities. Educational programming is very important to the day-to-day success of the youth. When programming is stopped, it can lead to behavior and security issues.

The safety of our employees, the youth in our care, and the communities we serve is our top priority. All essential staff who need to enter DJS secure facilities are being screened for signs and symptoms of possible exposure to COVID-19. They must have their temperature checked and complete a medical questionnaire. They will be denied entry if they refuse or exhibit a fever or other signs of infection. With respect to youth being admitted to DJS facilities, all youth undergo a thorough medical evaluation as part of the intake process. Additionally, the Department is taking further precautions by separating youth in all detention centers into three areas of the facilities, regular intake, healthy youth, and sick youth.

In addition, DJS has discontinued all in-person visitation at DJS facilities. Case Managers in the facilities are facilitating remote visits with parents and attorneys through technology such as video conferencing.

The Department has also taken other common-sense measures, such as cleaning equipment, transport vehicles, and surfaces more frequently. DJS has repeatedly advised our staff to stay home if they feel ill.

We will continue to evaluate our daily operations and remain committed to the health and well-being of the youth in our care, our staff, and our community.