Austin ISD: No appeal process after teacher medical accommodation request denied

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) —Teachers are sounding off after medical accommodation requests to work from home are being denied for the spring semester in the Austin Independent School District.

“My doctor looked me in the face and said this is a disease you cannot get,” said Austin High School teacher Annie Dragoo, referring to COVID-19.

Dragoo submitted her medical accommodation request because she is dealing with multiple health issues.

“In addition to heart failure, and sarcoidosis and congestive heart failure, I’m battling cancer,” Dragoo said.

She never thought it would be denied, especially since her first accommodation was granted when school first moved to virtual sessions, but just like many other teachers, she was denied this time.

“When I got the letter, I was scared. I immediately broke into tears,” Dragoo said.

Dragoo took to social media to voice her concerns, stating: “I can’t help but think if someone with my medical history and at-risk status cannot receive accommodations to teach from home, then no one will.”

“The ADA requires that individual determinations be made,” said Paul Tapp with the Association of Texas Professional Educators. “It wasn’t really designed for a pandemic where you have a lot of people in this situation.”

Austin ISD does not have an appeal process for denials, however, the district says they have other options for accommodations. Teachers who have received a denial have been asked to reach out to the employees relations department to explore other avenues, including additional personal protective equipment (N95 masks, face shields and plexiglass barriers).

Tapp says legal action can also be taken, but that could be a long uphill battle and it’s not guaranteed.

“When your employer is telling you we expect you in on Monday, and your lawyer is telling you there are these things we can do and we can expect a decision on them sometime within 3-6 months, that puts the teacher in a very difficult position,” Tapp said.

Dragoo says she just wants to keep teaching virtually.

“I have been a good teacher virtually, as hard as it is,” Dragoo said. “I just don’t understand.”

Dragoo says she has reached out to an attorney.

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