Teachers unions across America have defended members from termination for virtually every imaginable kind of misconduct.
The unions defended teachers for illegal marijuana use and intoxication on the job. They defended teachers who stole money, had excessive absences, or otherwise abused their position.
They defended teachers who had pornographic materials in the classroom. They defended incompetent teachers who failed to produce positive student achievement.
And in Rhode Island, the teachers unions vigorously defended one teacher who engaged in inappropriate touching and language with his female students. They appealed his firing all the way to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
As one of the primary purposes to justify the paying of dues, teachers unions promote themselves as fighting to protect the jobs of teachers and rarely ever backing down when it comes to the dismissal of one of their members.
But unions are criticized routinely for defending bad employees, regardless of the cost, and often seeking alternate accommodations or filing their own grievance, no matter the gravity of the sin.
However, teachers unions cannot tolerate one sin, and they’re willing to break the law in order to virtue signal.
Exercising one’s religious freedom by choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Oh, the horror.
In early 2022, in the small town of Barrington, Rhode Island, three teachers were fired for this unforgivable sin. Throughout the long ordeal that followed, the teachers nobly stuck to their principles and stood their ground.
Last month, they emerged from their battle with a rare major legal victory and complete vindication, when their lawsuit against Barrington Public Schools was settled. The settlement included payment of all back salaries, significant compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees.
But a second lawsuit by the teachers is pending, one that has garnered little media attention but may have greater long-term implications. That lawsuit also was filed against the Barrington Education Association, which brazenly abandoned these three dues-paying union members.
In the same case earlier this spring, the three teachers’ attorney, Gregory Piccirilli, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim against the Barrington teachers union, an affiliate of the National Education Association.
The teachers filed a legal complaint May 25 in Rhode Island Superior Court, the state’s second-highest court, against the NEA’s local, state, and federal branches. The lawsuit alleges that the union discriminated against teachers based on their religious beliefs and breached its “duty of fair representation.”
According to federal law, neither employers nor unions may discriminate against employees or members for religious reasons, as the Barrington teachers union did when deciding not to represent the three teachers.
And under Rhode Island law, unions are required to provide a “heightened” obligation to defend their public sector members against wrongful termination, not abandon them.
The suing teachers hope to demonstrate that the local teachers union openly conspired with the Barrington school committee, or school board, which not only imposed the vaccine mandate but fired the teachers who resisted it.
An attorney for the teachers claims that he has irrefutable proof that the local and statewide NEA chapters not only publicly advocated that every school district impose such a vaccine mandate, but that the union clearly said it wouldn’t defend any teachers fired as a consequence of the policy.
This declaration may be viewed only as open collusion with school districts. In essence, the union said to them, “If you implement a vaccine mandate, we will support the school district policy, not our own teacher members. So go right ahead, impose your authoritarian dictate, and we’ll stay out of the way.”
Most school committees in Rhode Island understood that such a mandate wasn’t within their purview to make medically; it belonged to the state Health Department. Also, lawyers for many school committees had legitimate, and prescient, fears of being sued for overstepping their bounds.
But, as it turned out, Barrington was the only school district in Rhode Island that took this unjustified and legally dangerous step. The district went so far as to deny paying the three fired teachers their lawfully required salaries until the end of the school year. And now, the school district is paying a steep price.
The lawyer for the Barrington school committee, who supported the teachers union’s push for the vaccine mandate and firing the teachers, eventually was fired herself for her incompetence and shockingly poor legal advice.
The school committee’s recently hired attorney, recognizing the obvious legal peril, quickly moved to settle the case. At the school district’s great expense, the three plaintiff teachers were “made whole, plus” in a settlement that exceeded their original demands.
Soon, the unions may suffer the same fate for failing to fulfill their legal and moral responsibilities. Instead, they chose to demonstrate egregiously blind adherence to a false government narrative.
Imagine an innocent citizen, charged with a criminal offense, discovering that her own defense attorney was conspiring with the prosecutor to ensure her conviction.
Basically, the same thing happened in Barrington, Rhode Island, where the three teachers were denied their rightful and guaranteed legal representation by the union, which had openly colluded with the school district. More alarmingly, these teachers were treated even worse than actual criminals.
Why would a teachers union so blatantly sell out these teachers and so obviously break the law in order to push a vaccine mandate that didn’t work?
Are they just incredibly stupid and ignorant? Were they completely and mindlessly brainwashed, as so many others have been—and still are—about the false claims of the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines? Were they drunk with power?
Or was it just pure corruption?
In perpetual league with local and state officials—elected and appointed—public sector unions routinely enjoy every conceivable legislative and regulatory advantage. To maintain its illicit gravy train of taxpayers’ money, were this teachers union’s illicit actions simply a means of showing support for the government’s narrative?
In a recent example of unions dutifully backing the official narrative, another local teachers union in Rhode Island actually went to the extent of filing suit against a mother for asking too many questions about the government-run school system’s radical racial curriculum.
Regardless, such union disregard for the law—and for its own responsibility to dues-paying members—must be exposed and punished to such an extent that it never happens again.
The National Education Association has a $1 million liability insurance fund; no doubt that fund will be greatly depleted after the resolution of the pending lawsuit, which will seek significant punitive and emotional distress damages.
It is time for school districts to return to the basics of education. Similarly, teachers unions must keep to their collective bargaining duties and desist with their open promotion of controversial and divisive curricula and of all things big government.
Corrupt departure from traditionally accepted educational norms now may lead to severe legal and financial costs. It’s about time.
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