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NYC DOE suspended workers for refusing to take school-issued COVID tests: suit

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Two city school employees say they were suspended without pay and benefits for refusing to take the agency’s COVID-19 tests — rather than one of their choice, new court papers allege.

Jeffrey Bueno, a school aide, and Joel Severino, a paraprofessional sued the Department of Education in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday, asking a judge to stop the city from requiring them to take the in-school tests, to reinstate their jobs and issue them back pay.

The duo say they don’t trust the tests that the DOE gives teachers and students, claiming in the suit they are prone to false positives.

Bueno — who had been working remotely throughout the pandemic — refused to sign a consent form for random COVID-19 tests which are conducted weekly on 20 percent of students and staff who go into school facilities, the court papers say.

The DOE then suspended Bueno without pay on Jan. 20 and eventually cut off his health insurance, which also covers his family and four kids, the court filing alleges.

People wearing face masks line up for COVID-19 tests at a CityMD clinic on Wall Street.
People wearing face masks line up for COVID-19 tests at a CityMD clinic on Wall Street.
John Nacion/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

Bueno claims he assured the school that he would provide it with proof of his COVID-19 test results from a facility of his choosing, the court documents say.

The DOE, “did no permit petitioner Bueno to continue serving his students remotely as he had done successfully for months,” the suit charges.

Bueno has been without pay now for six weeks, the court papers claim.

Severino had signed the consent form to be tested, but he ultimately refused to take an in-school test. And on March 3, he, too, was suspended without pay and health insurance and also wasn’t allowed to keep working remotely, the court documents claim.

Severino like Bueno, “believes the test used by DOE is not reliable and more physically intrusive than available, safe and efficacious alternatives,” the filing alleges.

The DOE told teachers in December that it would remove teachers who refuse to take the school-issued tests from the payroll. It also said at the time it would not accept outside COVID-19 test results.

Plaintiff lawyer Michael Sussman told The Post, “Our position is very simple: our priority should be to protect public health and civil liberties at the same time.”

“Compelling people to participate in a program which tests 20 percent of a population is inherently illogical and coercive,” Sussman said. “Refusing to accept proof of negative results from a personal doctor makes no sense.”

“We need policies which do not exclude from our schools veteran educators whose perspective on testing may differ from the majority,” Sussman added.

Katie O’Hanlon, a spokesperson with the DOE, said, “Our testing program has helped keep our schools safe and all in-person staff must consent to testing unless they have an exemption based on a health or medical condition.

“We will review the suit when we receive it.”

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