Movement

Refuse to Return

Website:

https://www.facebook.com/refusetoreturn/?ref=page_internal

Formation:

2020

Founder:

Harley Litzelman (also known as Harley Poston)

Type:

Pro-lockdown teacher group

Refuse to Return is an informal group of teachers opposed to restarting in-person classes at school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization began as a Facebook group which has amassed almost 8,700 followers[1] as of November 2020, and has inspired at least 35 state-based groups, the largest of which has over 30,000 followers. [2]

Refuse to Return supports closing all in-person schooling until counties report no new COVID-19 cases for 14 days. Refuse to Return’s online petition demands a harsh lockdown, including the cessation of all non-essential travel and business activity. The petition also supports various left-of-center economic policies, including government-controlled health care and the cancellation of mortgage and rent payments.

In addition to setting up the original Facebook group and online petition, leader Harley Litzelman has written in support of potential mass teacher strikes or “militant action” against school administrations if in-person teaching is resumed.

Petition

Harley Litzelman set up a “Refuse to Return to Campus until Counties Report No New Cases for 14 Days” petition on Change.org targeted at the U.S. Department of Education, all state-level Departments of Education and Departments of Health, as well as numerous local government agencies. The petition is aiming for 150,000 supporters, and as of early November 2020, the petition had over 100,000 supporters. [3]

In addition to demanding that no school re-open in-person schooling until its county finds no new COVID-19 cases in 14 days, the petition demands numerous measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, increased school funding, and new federal poverty relief programs. [4]

To combat the spread of COVID-19, the petition demands that federal, state, and local governments introduce “mass testing” of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, nationwide contact tracing, mandatory mask requirements, the suspension of all non-essential travel, and the suspension of non-essential business activity through a harsh lockdown. [5] The petition also notes that though it is demanding lockdowns, it does not support the restriction of individuals engaged in Black Lives Matter protests. [6]

To support schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, the petition demands increased school funding to purchase technology components so all students can access online classes, online teaching programs, disposable disease protection equipment for students and teachers, additional mental health counselors, and anything else that teachers believe they need to resume schooling after 14 days without new COVID-19 cases in their counties. [7]

To provide economic relief for the fallout of the national lockdowns, the petition demands that the federal government distribute $2,000 per month to all adults and an additional $1,000 per dependent child (modeled after a plan proposed by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)), create a government-financed socialized health care system (modeled after a plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)), cancel all rent and mortgage payments (modeled after a plan proposed by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)), and provide emergency shelter for homeless people, emergency workers, and their families. The petition states that it does not call for these newly created services to cease once the COVID-19 pandemic ends. [8]

Leadership

Refuse to Return was founded by Harley Litzelman (also known as Harley Poston), a social science teacher at Skyline High School in Oakland, California. Litzelman is a former intern at the California Federation of Teachers, the state-level organization of the American Federation of Teachers. While attending the University of California, Davis, Litzelman served as a lobbyist and student representative for the Associated Students of the University of California, Davis (ASUCD). [9]

On June 30, 2020, Litzelman posted an essay to Medium calling for teachers to refuse to return to their campuses. The essay argues that teachers have been forced by social norms to accept inordinate personal sacrifices on behalf of their jobs. [10]

Litzelman claims without substantiation[11] that following these norms in the current COVID-19 pandemic will result in the deaths of teachers, administrators, and students. Therefore, he calls on all teachers to refuse to return to in-person schooling until their counties report no new cases for 14 days, an unprecedented action and a medical situation unlikely to ever materialize. Invoking labor-class solidarity, Litzelman calls for teachers to be ready for mass strikes across the United States or “more militant action” if administrations try to reopen schools. [12]

References

  1. “Refuse to Return: About.” Facebook. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/refusetoreturn/?ref=page_internal. ^
  2. “”Refuse to Return” Facebook group cofounder describes explosions of opposition to unsafe school openings.” World Socialist Web Site. August 18, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/08/18/refu-a18.html. ^
  3. Litzelman, Harley. “Refuse to Return to Campus until Counties Report No New Cases for 14 Days.” Change.org. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.change.org/p/u-s-department-of-education-refuse-to-return-to-campus-until-counties-report-no-new-cases-for-14-days?recruiter=25958176&recruited_by_id=772193b0-c57e-012f-1bc6-40401bfb750c&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard. ^
  4. Litzelman, Harley. “Refuse to Return to Campus until Counties Report No New Cases for 14 Days.” Change.org. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.change.org/p/u-s-department-of-education-refuse-to-return-to-campus-until-counties-report-no-new-cases-for-14-days?recruiter=25958176&recruited_by_id=772193b0-c57e-012f-1bc6-40401bfb750c&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard. ^
  5. Litzelman, Harley. “Refuse to Return to Campus until Counties Report No New Cases for 14 Days.” Change.org. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.change.org/p/u-s-department-of-education-refuse-to-return-to-campus-until-counties-report-no-new-cases-for-14-days?recruiter=25958176&recruited_by_id=772193b0-c57e-012f-1bc6-40401bfb750c&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard. ^
  6. Litzelman, Harley. “Refuse to Return to Campus until Counties Report No New Cases for 14 Days.” Change.org. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.change.org/p/u-s-department-of-education-refuse-to-return-to-campus-until-counties-report-no-new-cases-for-14-days?recruiter=25958176&recruited_by_id=772193b0-c57e-012f-1bc6-40401bfb750c&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard. ^
  7. Litzelman, Harley. “Refuse to Return to Campus until Counties Report No New Cases for 14 Days.” Change.org. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.change.org/p/u-s-department-of-education-refuse-to-return-to-campus-until-counties-report-no-new-cases-for-14-days?recruiter=25958176&recruited_by_id=772193b0-c57e-012f-1bc6-40401bfb750c&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard. ^
  8. Litzelman, Harley. “Refuse to Return to Campus until Counties Report No New Cases for 14 Days.” Change.org. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.change.org/p/u-s-department-of-education-refuse-to-return-to-campus-until-counties-report-no-new-cases-for-14-days?recruiter=25958176&recruited_by_id=772193b0-c57e-012f-1bc6-40401bfb750c&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard. ^
  9. “Harley Litzelman.” Linkedin. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/harley-litzelman-93ab07101/. ^
  10. Poston, Harley. “Teachers: Refuse to Return to Campus.” Medium. June 30, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://medium.com/@harley.litzelman/teachers-refuse-to-return-to-campus-b9afa039ef2e. ^
  11. Birnbaum, Michael. “Europe’s Schools Still Open, Still Relatively Safe, through Covid-19 Second Wave.” The Washington Post. WP Company, December 2, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/europe-schools-covid-open/2020/12/01/4480a5c8-2e61-11eb-9dd6-2d0179981719_story.html. ^
  12. Poston, Harley. “Teachers: Refuse to Return to Campus.” Medium. June 30, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://medium.com/@harley.litzelman/teachers-refuse-to-return-to-campus-b9afa039ef2e. ^
  See an error? Let us know!