As the debate over whether to open schools for in-person instruction continues to rage, one Florida teacher is not mincing words.
Whitney Reddick, a special-education teacher in Jacksonville, is making her opposition to reopening known by writing and sharing at a school board meeting her own obituary.
Her cause of death is forcefully stated:
“…she succumbed to the ignorance of those in power.”
Reddick posted her obituary to her school district’s “Pandemic Solutions Team” Facebook group, where it received no shortage of attention.
“With profound sadness, 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.
Whitney was born on February 21st, 1987 in Jacksonville, Florida to Charles and Fay Reddick, whom she is survived.”
“She and her husband, Evan met in elementary school, sharing multiple of the same teachers and continued their education together through middle and high school. Though Whitney and Evan never dated in high school they rekindled their friendship in January of 2013 and wed in June of the following year. Whitney and Evan welcomed their first, and only child in June of 2019.”
“Talon Charles Peterson was born at 4:10 am on June 3rd. Talon and Whitney share many character traits. He loves to share toys, pre-chewed food, and half drank sippy cups”
Talon turned 14 months the month his mother passed. Being so young his memories of her will fade and he will only have those that were captured in film. He will have a hole only a few children bear. However, more now than ever before.”
“Whitney was a lover however, that may not have always seemed her motive, but you knew that was the only force by the passion in her voice. She fought with vigor for things she believed in. She stood up to injustice, embraced those who differed from her, and truly listened when spoken to.”
“Whitney never took the easy path, she was assertive, strong-willed, and bossy, she loved that word because, to her, it meant female leadership. She invested the time and dedication in improving and honing her passions to give them a voice, to not cower because she seemed too loud, too aggressive, or uneducated. She was introspective and when an adversary arose, she listened, therefore, to become better equipped in leaving the adversary unarmed and better informed.”
“However, 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. Whitney was taken from us”
“Yes, of course too soon, but we are the ones left with holes in our hearts, missing how big hers was.”
“The next time you stub your toe and curse like a sailor you know those words were taken from her soul and flown straight to your lips. We all have a little ‘Whitney’ in us.”
“Please send your condolences to Governor Ron DeSantis, Mayor Lenny Curry, and finally the Duval County School Board and Superintendent.”
“Whitney asks that donations be made in lieu of flowers to Making Strides with Autism in her honor.”
Reddick’s told Yahoo Life that she was inspired by a group of teachers who all wrote their obituaries and sent them to their state’s governor.
“I just kept thinking about it and I was like, that’s very powerful because those teachers that wrote it may not die, but teachers or any sort of school employee—somebody has, and somebody will [die].”
“And I thought the gravity of that sadness and that weight that it took on was very powerful and was a message that I wanted to send as well.”
Reddick has received plenty of blowback for her gesture, including calls for her resignation, but the majority response has been an overwhelming wave of support.
“…I’m not gonna let the negative feedback sway how I feel.”
“There are a lot of teachers that are extremely afraid to speak out because of the repercussions on the school level or district level.”
Reddick was not without her detractors on social media, either, but many people were firmly on her side.
As nice as education is, it's nothing without a life.
— perfidia.™ (@_eiht) August 6, 2020
Work is required to survive this pandemic but to risk lives of teachers and students is appalling. Schools should stay locked down. Unfortunately,, it cannot be said for the medical field, fire department, METS and our police department. So sad.
— Karen Saunders (@KarenTownsend11) August 9, 2020
I'm with #WhitneyReddick and the teachers of the United States of America
— Mike Eusebio (@MikeEusebio) August 7, 2020
You really want to send your children back to school ? https://t.co/SIjdRml3e1
— JustG (@Little_G2) August 10, 2020
My wish is all teachers across the USA walk out. Not only would they save their lives, that of the children, the rest of the school staff, yet also countless members of the communities.
— Vicki Polin (@vickipolin) August 10, 2020
Sadly this virus will teach a lesson that everybody already knows.
— Jonas Tomaz de Aquin (@JonasAquin) August 9, 2020
Once one venue or institution is opened to COVID-19, all of them have been opened. This lesson was learned 102 years ago. It hasn't been forgotten, just ignored. https://t.co/AvEV5fFytQ
— Stephen Wilson (@Whippersteve) August 9, 2020
Those in power over reopening schools, should be all put on a rocket and Sent out into outer space with no return. Teacher writes her own mock obituary to protest school reopenings: 'She succumbed to the ignorance of those in power' https://t.co/Mczc81WgnR
— Rbrt Wlkr (@RbrtWlkr3) August 10, 2020
We're thinking of those teachers and students who are being forced back into close quarters because our leadership were unable to come up with anything more than "pray & live with it". https://t.co/KeBoJRfNik
— Bill Kimler (@billkimler) August 9, 2020
THIS is what we've become? THIS?https://t.co/QFt2yYTVAL
— Amateur Renaissance Man. It shouldn't be like this (@BWoody1213) August 10, 2020
Despite her outspoken objections, Reddick told Yahoo Life they come second to her dedication to her job.
“Any sort of anxiety or hesitations that I do have about returning to a classroom, those will never supersede my ability to provide an educational environment that is safe and nurturing for the students.”
“I do feel strongly about the stance I have taken, however I will be returning and I will be doing what I do on a daily basis.”
Hopefully Reddick and her fellow teachers can return to an environment where the health and safety of all students, staff, teachers and administration are more important than political points or “restarting the economy.”