Parents can strike, too
Teachers in Oakland and Capistrano aren’t the only ones who can strike. Two weeks ago, most parents at a largely Hispanic elementary school kept this children home to protest the district’s failure to respond to repeated complaints about a 20-year veteran teacher.
Oakland Tribune writer and blogger Katy Murphy reported that only 20 percent of 300 students showed up on April 16 at Lazear Elementary School, where, according to a school trustee, the teacher in question had transferred to the school last fall without the principal’s permission.
According to the story, “Parents say he took a smoking break during class, leaving his students unattended; that he locked a student in the classroom this past fall and recently grabbed a child by the collar; that he has fallen asleep in class; and that he made the children write, over and over, ‘I will learn how to shut my mouth.’” A final complaint, that he pulled up a student by his collar, was the most serious and, following the parent strike, led to the teacher being placed on administrative leave.
Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, said she met with parents to try to head off the strike and told Murphy, “We can’t just lift a teacher and move him somewhere else because parents don’t like him,” she said. “The voices of the parents are very important, but at the same time, teachers have rights. ”
Yes, they do – and should. But over-protective due-process laws and reflexive union defense of them in even the most egregious cases is exasperating parents and undermining respect for teaching as a profession. Sometimes principals have a role, too, in failing to write and follow up on complaints and bad evaluations. I don’t know if that’s the case here. But principals too often give up in the face of what will be expensive and exhausting litigation.
Check out the comments following Murphy’s blog post. It’s a fascinating interchange between parents and teachers, not all of whom defend the union on this one.