Outrage as Calif. Teacher with Breast Cancer Is Forced to Pay for a Substitute: 'This Can't Be'
"There must be some mistake," one outraged parent says
A teacher at Glen Park Elementary School in San Francisco will be out for the rest of the school year as she undergoes cancer treatment. Along with sky-high medical bills, the beloved teacher will also have to pay for a substitute to take over her second-grade class.
The teacher, whose name has not been made public to protect her privacy, was diagnosed with breast cancer and has exhausted her sick days, according to a GoFundMe page set up for the woman. Now, as she uses her extended leave time, the teacher will have the cost of a substitute deducted from her pay, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“Parents were outraged and incredulous — like, this can’t be,” Amanda Fried, whose daughter attends the school, told the Chronicle. “There must be some mistake.”
As it turns out, the situation stems from a decades-old policy stating that teachers who go on leave for injury or illness for five months have the cost of a substitute pulled from their paychecks. Because teachers in the state don’t pay into California’s disability insurance program, they cannot access its benefits, according to the Chronicle. Substitute teachers can cost up to $240.26 a day.
The San Francisco Unified School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE, but spokesperson Laura Dudnick told Buzzfeed News that the policy was not determined by the district.
“This is not unique to San Francisco,” Dudnick said. “It is in the [Education] Code. This is not a district-only rule.”
Although the policy has been around since the ’70s, it has garnered national attention since the Chronicle reported the teacher’s story and sparked outrage in the elementary school community.
“She’s an incredible teacher and that’s not fair. That’s crazy!” parent Elia Hernandez told KABC. Another parent, Abby Hipps, added: “She’s wonderful, she’s a beautiful lovely great teacher. She’s one of the best teachers. It’s terrible.”
A teacher also voiced her concern, telling KABC, “It makes me worry if that were to happen to me, I have to plan accordingly, and that’s not fair, you know.”
The California Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
More than 130 people have donated $13,720 to the woman’s GoFundMe, exceeding its $10,000 goal.
“This will cover the cost of her substitute teacher for the rest of the school year, medical copayments and deductibles, and additional lost income when her husband takes time off to care for [the teacher] and their two teenage children,” the page states, noting that the woman has undergone surgery and will have another before beginning standard cancer treatment.
“The students were deeply saddened to learn that Mrs. Ramirez would not return this academic year,” the campaign noted, “and they all promise to be on their best behavior for their substitute teacher.”