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EDITORIAL: School employees should help in the effort to keep schools safe

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When we consider the duties of an elementary school teacher like Queensbury teacher Joe Traina, we put “protecting the health and safety of students” as the top priority.

We put it above “teaching kids my personal views on freedom” and even further above “explaining why I’m a victim like Hester Prynne or a political refugee during the Nazi era.”

In a Facebook explanation of his refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or to get tested instead, Traina compares the district’s request for proof of vaccination to the “Show me your papers” phrase made popular by anti-fascism movies like “Casablanca.”

Then he compares the alternative weekly testing requirement to getting “marched down to the nurse’s office, essentially wearing our scarlet letter.”

If Traina had asserted his right to refuse the vaccine and the tests and left work without casting himself as a hero or martyr, we wouldn’t have any comment. He does have the right to refuse.

But he does not have the right to impose his personal views on Queensbury school district. He can do what he wants at home, but he has no constitutional right to do whatever he pleases, without consequence, at work.

Traina has cast himself as a martyr to freedom. He is actually someone who can’t see beyond his own nose to perceive the value of sacrifice for the common good.

His comparison with “The Scarlet Letter” doesn’t work. Hester Prynne was shamed by her Puritan community for adultery. Traina is the one who has publicized his refusals and made himself notorious.

“I am taking a stand and not complying with these mandated demands,” Traina writes in his Facebook post.

Is this what he is teaching — that “mandated demands” are bad, and you get to defy them when you choose?

“If we all just do as we are told when there is overreach, we are only asking for more overreach,” he writes.

But who determines “overreach?” In this case, Traina has determined that mandating vaccinations — or, in their absence, weekly tests — for school district employees is a fascistic measure imposed by an overbearing state government.

We disagree. Vaccination mandates and other protective measures in schools and other workplaces are a reasonable response to a deadly pandemic that, as of Thursday, had killed more than 667,000 people nationwide, including more than 54,000 in New York and scores in the local area during the past year and a half.

When the country faces extraordinary circumstances, extra sacrifice is required. During World War II (to use Traina’s “show me your papers” frame of reference), millions of Americans were drafted into the Armed Forces, sacrificing their liberty and, sometimes, their lives for the public good.

In a historical context, the sacrifices now being required are small. Many people would consider it no sacrifice to get shots that will protect them from getting very sick and, perhaps, dying. Many people would consider it a civic duty to participate in a prevention effort against a terrible pandemic. We hope Traina and everyone else comes around to see the wisdom and the benefit of doing all they can to fight COVID-19.

Local editorials are written by the Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; Will Doolittle, projects editor; and Bob Condon, local news editor.


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