(This piece originally appeared in the Western Massachusetts Jewish Ledger)
By Rabbi Neil Hirsch
Carol, a congregant at my synagogue, is a 5th grade teacher in the Framingham public schools who has recently gotten into the habit of glancing at her watch at 11:30 AM. That’s when the requests to go to the nurse begin. Why 11:30? Why like clockwork? That’s when the Tylenol wears off for her students who come to school sick. Their parents, who cannot afford to take a day off to care for their children, gave them Tylenol in hopes of keeping their child’s symptoms at bay. So, Carol sends the children to the nurse, hoping that they’ll spend the day there instead of being sent back to the classroom to be with everyone else because the nurse’s office is at full capacity.
The school cannot send the students home because their caregivers are off at work. Because many parents do not earn sick leave, our school systems are taxed and our workspaces are exposed to illness. Simply put, the fact that many workers here in Massachusetts cannot earn hours of paid sick leave is holding us back as a community.