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TCU Professor Asked To Teach Remotely Due To Daughter's High-Risk Condition But Says He Was Denied

UPDATE:  Thursday night, TCU Provost Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg notified faculty that instructors may choose to designate their courses as being Online Courses for fall 2020.

In an email to faculty, Dahlberg wrote, "I hear anxiety, frustration, optimism, grace.  I feel those feelings also … I remain focused on developing solutions that keep our community intact, especially during this difficult time."

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A Texas Christian University English professor said he was denied the option of teaching remotely for the fall semester.

Jason Helms' two-year-old daughter, Harper, was barely a week old when she underwent open heart surgery due to a congenital heart defect.

Due to her ongoing health concerns, doctors warned her parents about the risks of her getting the coronavirus.

This is why Helms said he made a promise to his family not to do any face-to-face teaching this fall.

"I can't get COVID because I can't bring it home," he said. "There's no sense if she gets COVID, even if its detected early enough, that she can be protected. It's real scary."

Jason and Meaghan Helms with their daughter
Jason and Meaghan Helms with their daughter, Harper.

Helms, a tenured professor at TCU, said he asked the university's administration if he could teach his classes online this fall.

He said he was told "no" and was given the option of taking family medical leave.

TCU declined to comment on Helm's case but a university spokesperson said the school is working with individual concerns to find solutions.

In a statement, a TCU spokesperson said, "We understand that each employee has unique circumstances and concerns as TCU plans for fall 2020. Details are currently being worked out that will allow for more online options and flexibility for our instructors. We are committed to providing a safe and accessible campus for our students, faculty, staff and visitors."

Fellow faculty members have posted on social media their support for Helms, while the TCU Faculty Senate Committee has engaged in discussions of a vote of "no confidence" in the administration.

Other faculty members from TCU, as well as from other universities, have also expressed concerns about returning to campus in the fall.

Helms said he does not want to take medical leave. He wants to teach but said he will not put his daughter's health at risk.

"We've been through too much these past two years with her. It's not an option for me to return to campus."

Last month TCU announced it would have in-person classes in the fall and was planning for flexibility.

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