To the Editor: Throughout the history of education, the commercialization and extraction of value from public schools for private gain has been an issue progressives have struggled to resist. Today we face yet another challenge of private entities trying to extract value from public education, but this time that extraction is of student and teacher DNA.

This October the Department of Education has begun mandatory in-school COVID testing for students and teachers. While the city and union believe such testing is going to keep our schools safe, it appears everyone involved in negotiating this deal has forgotten to keep student and teacher DNA safe.

DNA is the oil of the 21st century.

The value of one's own DNA in the next 5, 10, or 20 years cannot even be estimated. Catalogs of DNA hold extremely high monetary value. For this reason, I have never sent a swab sample to ancestry.com or 23&Me because I know they would own my DNA for their own private capitalist use, and I am not ok with this.

In the same light, the company that NYC has contracted with to perform the in-school COVID testing, Fulgent Genetics, owns a "proprietary catalog of genetic information." It appears that teacher and student DNA from COVID testing swab samples are going to end up in Fulgent's genetic catalog. This is problematic for thousands of teachers and parents.

The post-COVID world is unprecedented.

I know the city and the union are working hard to create a safe situation for our schools in this new world. But in this new reality, we cannot ignore the need to safeguard the medical and privacy concerns of teachers and parents. Furthermore, we must never allow a private capitalist Biotech company to exploit the needs of a public education system yearning for safety and security.

I would like to ask Michael Mulgrew, the president of my union, to reach out to me as a dues-paying union member so we can have a discussion about protecting medical and privacy concerns of UFT membership--as well as students--now and in the future. I know how chaotic and busy things are for Mr. Mulgrew and the school system right now, but this is not a trivial issue. It is absolutely critical to get this right. 

In the post-COVID world, we are going to have to think deeply and differently to ensure we cover all areas of concern for all stakeholders effectively.

MICHAEL KANE

NYC Public School Teacher, UFT Member, and steering committee member for www.nyteachersforchoice.org


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