Case closed: jury duty must accommodate teachers

By Ethan S. Miller, Digital Media Editor

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Sick days, emergencies, car breakdowns. These are some of the most prevalent reasons that teachers miss school. However, there is another conflict hitting CHS students and staff hard: jury duty.

Jury duty summons are simply a part of life for U.S. citizens, but this process has caused massive problems. From debates over juror’s pay to the effect that jury duty has on juror’s work schedule, the subject of jury duty is a highly divisive issue for many. Moreover, for teachers specifically, the problems resulting from a stint in the courtroom are often crippling for both them and their students.

According to the Maryland District court, jury duty is an essential civic function, even when it may be inconvenient to one’s schedule.

Nonetheless, even the courts acknowledge the drawbacks of a jury duty summoning. Alarmingly, when teachers when are summoned, their absence from the classroom can have negative impacts on their students.

When students are used to the teaching style and consistency of a certain teacher, a long term sub may become a significant hindrance on their learning, as students will have to adjust to a new educator and their teaching methods, all while remembering how their actual teacher gives instruction for when they return .

In addition to the ramifications of a lengthy jury duty summon, even short absences often result in a significant disruption to the classroom.

Often times, a teacher may have planned a key review day or the introduction of a rigorous topic on the day of a summon.

With their subsequent absence, many substitute teachers who are not qualified in the subject will involuntarily leave students in the dust.

According to the US Office of Personnel Management, all employees are entitled to having their schedule accommodated via rescheduling.

This simple solution may be a perfect for other federal employees but for teachers, this is nearly impossible. Teachers cannot make up missed days by teaching on the weekends or at night.

Viable alternatives for teachers are available, such as a note asking for an exemption from this act of civil service, but even this solution has its drawbacks.

According to the Montgomery County Jury plans, a juror may be disqualified from serving on a jury because they have to reschedule.

For teachers, despite how complicated jury duty has become, the solution is clear.

If teachers schedules are packed during 9 months, the logical solution would be to have teachers serve jury duty over the summer.

However in Alaska, there are already laws in place that exempt some teachers from serving, so taking an extra step to exempt all teachers would be less drastic than it may seem.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the Alaska state house committee has proposed HB 98, which would exempt teachers from jury duty during the school year.

One of the main arguments against bills like this is that it limits diversity in the jury pool. In many communities, teachers have an important say, so excluding them from a jury pool prevents an accurate reflection of the community.

Even in spite of the pitfalls of exempting teachers from jury duty during the school year, in its current state, the jury duty system for teachers in Montgomery County is flawed. This law would relieve stress on both students and teachers, and it is vital that they are at least considered.