Florida Teacher Pens Own Obituary In Protest Of Reopening Schools With In-Person Learning

A Florida public school teacher penned her own obituary just days before students are set to return to her classroom. She joins dozens of educators nationwide who are using eccentric tactics to voice their disapproval for a return to in-person teaching amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Whitney Leigh Reddick, a special education teacher within the Duval County Public Schools system in Jacksonville, Florida, became the latest teacher to write her own obituary as she and thousands of others prepare to welcome students back for fall classes. "With profound sadness," begins Reddick's obituary which listed her as dying this past Friday after she "succumbed to the ignorance of those in power."

Reddick insisted to Newsweek Saturday for her "it's all about safety" and not politics. Reddick said she felt compelled to write the obituary after realizing that although she may not actually die from COVID-19, at least one teacher in Florida likely will after students return on August 20.

Reddick said her school's administrators have been very helpful in trying to ease what she says will be a scary transition, but her obituary is intended as a protest against the district and the state's cavalier—and potentially deadly—decision to allow in-person classes.

"I announce the passing of Whitney Leigh Reddick. A loving and devoted teacher, mother, daughter, wife, aunt, and friend to all whose lives she touched, on August 7th, 2020. She left us while alone in isolation and on a ventilator at a Duval county hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. She was in her 33rd year," the Jacksonville special education teacher wrote in the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team Facebook group Tuesday.

"Whitney was born on February 21st, 1987 in Jacksonville, Florida to Charles and Fay Reddick, whom she is survived," the obituary continued.

Reddick told Newsweek she informed her parents and half-asleep husband of her decision to post the obituary early Tuesday morning. Reddick said she was inspired after reading about Iowa teachers who sent Republican Governor Kim Reynolds their own obituaries in protest of returning to classrooms amid the pandemic. In New York City last week, teachers took the morbid mentality to an even higher level - several brought coffins and even a guillotine to a Lower Manhattan protest against Mayor Bill de Blasio re-opening city schools.

The Duval County schools' re-opening plan involves several intertwining options for parents, teachers and students which range from five-day-a-week, in-person classes to 100 percent virtual learning. Some parents have opted to allow their kids to take virtual classes before revisiting their decision in nine weeks.

Given that the obituary describes her own death from a third-person perspective, Reddick said the obituary was a bit difficult to write. She asked fellow teachers and friends to provide her with some of the autobiographical descriptions, which included details of how her young son would likely have no memories of her existence.

"Even though she shouted from the rooftops, attempted to be unemotional, and educated herself in facts and science, she succumbed to the ignorance of those in power. She returned to work, did her best to handle all the roles placed on her shoulders; educator, COVID-security guard, human shield, firefighter, social worker, nurse, and caregiver but the workload weakened her, and the virus took hold," reads her obituary.

According to Florida's latest Agency for Health Care Administration report, the state has recorded more than 526,000 coronavirus cases since March, including more than 30,000 who have been hospitalized. There have been 8,239 COVID-19 deaths in Florida, which includes 189 in the past 24 hours. Just shy of 7,000 with coronavirus symptoms are currently hospitalized across the state.

Reddick told Newsweek her mom was supportive of her decision to post the obituary despite political differences. But her mother added, "I just don't want it to ever be something I have to read out loud."

Newsweek reached out to the Duval County school system for additional remarks Saturday afternoon, but they did not respond before publication.

florida school reopening covid classroom
A Florida public school teacher penned her own obituary just days before students are set to return to her classroom. She joins dozens of educators nationwide who are using eccentric tactics to voice their disapproval for a return to in-person teaching amid the coronavirus pandemic. GEORGE FREY / Stringer/Getty Images