The Prince William Education Association organized a protest caravan of nearly 100 vehicles Wednesday evening from Colgan High School to the nearby school board meeting -- with two of the cars topped with child-sized coffins.
The displays drew quick outrage on social media, and an apology from the PWEA, a member of the National Education Association, a union representing teachers and staff across the country.
The PWEA posted a statement on Facebook late Wednesday, saying the association sanctioned the caravan and encouraged members to build signs and decorate their cars to express “our concerns and position on the return to educating in a physical setting.”
“Of the nearly one hundred cars that participated in the caravan with individual expressions of their fears and concerns, we acknowledge that some found the decorations on two of the cars offensive,” the statement said. “Please accept our sincerest apologies.”
The rebukes on social media were swift, with teachers who are PWEA members calling the display distasteful at best.
“Baby coffins are not ‘decorations’ and ‘acknowledging’ that some found them offensive is not the same as saying that the display was deplorable and out of line. PWEA does NOT speak for me!,” one teacher wrote on the association’s Facebook page.
“This is not enough. Leadership needs to step down. The buck stops there. Despicable. #PWEADoesNotSpeakForMe,” another wrote.
Dozens came out to Wednesday night’s school board meeting to plead for and against returning students to classrooms as the second quarter approaches.
The school board didn’t vote, but did give its blessing to Prince William Schools Superintendent Steve Walts’ plan for a slow return to in-person learning. Under the plan, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students will return two days a week next month, followed by second through fifth grades returning on a staggered schedule in December and January. There is no plan in place yet for middle and high schools.