(This is a guest post by Michael Kane, who has worked as a New York City public school teacher for over 13 years and is a steering committee member of NY Teachers For Choice, a grassroots organization of educators. He is a former UFT union delegate who served on consultation committees addressing problems with working conditions in public schools. You can contact him at www.nyteachersforchoice.org._
New York City teachers and students are being mandated to give swab samples for random COVID testing starting in October. The testing is being performed by a Biotech company called Fulgent Genetics. No one has yet to answer the question as to whether Fulgent will be allowed to catalogue teacher and student DNA in their “proprietary reference library of genetic information” for the company’s own private profit. Fulgent does in fact own such a catalogue, according to a 2017 SEC filing from the Biotech company.
As a teacher for 13 years in Queens and a proud union member, I assumed I would get a quick answer to this question from my union – the UFT. After all, they were the ones who negotiated the agreement requiring mandatory random testing. I have been shocked that they remain dead silent and refuse to even acknowledge my questions, and the questions of hundreds of teachers that share my concerns.
I first started by asking my district union rep, who was unable to get an answer. Then my organization, New York Teachers for Choice (NYTFC), wrote an open letter to UFT President Mike Mulgrew, sent to him and every vice president, every board member, as well as Health & Safety at UFT.
Still no response.
I contacted city council members, including Speaker Corey Johnson, Mark Treyger, Barry Grodenchik, Steven Matteo, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams as well as multiple Albany legislators.
Still no answer.
When silence gets this loud, it is usually a sign that something is not right.
It is interesting to note that the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has recently backed off it’s language stating in-school COVID testing is mandatory for all students. On September 29th, the DOE sent a letter to parents stating it was not mandatory, and that their child may or may not be removed from in-person education if they do not consent to random COVID testing.
That sounds like the NYCDOE is aware that they are on shaky legal ground to force children to get a medical test on school grounds, without parents present, randomly, otherwise the child is removed from school. It also raises the question if the NYCDOE is allowing an opt-out for parents because they are allowing Fulgent Genetics to catalogue their underaged DNA without informed consent of the parent.
To be clear: We do not know if Fulgent Genetics, or any other entity, will be allowed to catalogue teacher and student DNA. But we demand to know the answer!NYTFC is embarking on a grassroots letter writing campaign to Mayor Bill De Blasio, Chancellor Richard Carranza and UFT President Michael Mulgrew to get an answer to this simple question – Has NYC sold the rights to teacher and student DNA without our permission?