Wednesday, May 02, 2012

When bullies grow up, they can always run teachers unions

Earlier this month, the presidents of America's two largest teachers unions co-hosted a screening of the new documentary "Bully." The movie, of course, aims to combat bullying of schoolchildren.

But even as they publicly eschew bullying, these unions and their locals across the nation bully teachers and competing organizations to maintain membership and power. I have published a new report on the details of this ugly trend in School Reform News.

In February, a Utah teacher named Cole Kelly testified in favor of a bill that would penalize school districts for not granting all teacher organizations -- not just unions, but also other professional organizations -- equal access to teachers. A week later, he was released from his position as athletic director, which for school districts is tantamount to firing. His principal admitted she approved of his job performance but had released him because of pressure.

Subsequently, other teachers texted Kelly to say they agreed with him but were afraid of being fired if they spoke out or left their union. He is contesting his release.

This spring, a Colorado teacher emailed the state director of a nonunion teachers association, explaining why she wouldn't publicly speak for a bill extending the state's two-week window for ending union membership.

"They [the state union] are a large and powerful organization," she wrote. "I want to speak out against them, but I am afraid of the repercussions that I will face as a result and the possibility of them doing something to make me lose my job."

At a new teacher orientation in Jacksonville, Fla., a union representative heard a presentation by a nonunion group. She walked onto the stage before 600 teachers, accused the presenter of being "a desperate former teacher" and stalked about the room ripping up the competition's fliers, said Tim Farmer, membership director for the Professional Association of Colorado Educators.

These are not isolated incidents. Teachers unions engage in repeated, unashamed aggression against dissenting teachers and competitor organizations. In regular legislation-tracking for School Reform News, I have uncovered many examples of such behavior across the country. Some are as outrageous as the ones above, while others are mere annoyances. They all, however, represent a consistent effort to intimidate teachers and suppress ideas that might threaten their agenda.

"This is everywhere," said Alexandra Schroeck, communications director for the American Association of Educators, the largest nonunion teachers association. AAE offers teachers liability insurance, professional development grants and legal representation in employment disputes, but it does not engage in collective bargaining or political activism. Its fees are approximately $15 per month, whereas union dues are often $50 per month or more. Like other nonunion teachers organizations, such as Educators4Excellence in New York and the California Teacher Empowerment Network, AAE has been growing, but it constantly runs up against unethical and sometimes illegal union-influenced resistance.

In Utah, for example, a refusal to allow all teachers associations equal access to privileges like payroll deductions, teacher in-services and orientation, and committees (often a union, but no other teachers association, is guaranteed a seat or several) is illegal. Rather than granting access, many principals and superintendents just ignore phone calls and emails requesting it to avoid admitting they are breaking the law, said the state's AAE membership director, Charity Smith.

This year, Smith said, a large male union representative met her at her presentation to a group of teachers and demanded she reveal whom she had talked to, where she was planning to visit next, and her home address. Teachers have whispered to her they were interested in leaving the union but couldn't talk about it openly at school, slipping her their email addresses for later communication. All the states the report covers are right-to-work states, but this is not preventing such persecution.

Teachers unions proclaim to the public that they represent teachers. They also say they are against bullying. My research provides important context for both claims.


British all-girls' schools could lose a quarter of pupils as parents opt for mixed classrooms in world of 'men and careers'

All-girls' schools could lose a quarter of their British pupils as parents decide they're no longer suitable for preparing their daughters for the modern world of 'men, marriage and career'.

The number of pupils attending same sex schools belonging to the renowned Girls' Schools Association has already dropped by 1.4 per cent in the last year.

And Lord Lucas, editor of The Good Schools Guide, has claimed all-girls' schools need to 'up their game' to compete with the growing preference towards mixed classrooms.

He warned that girls' schools that did not change with the times by improving their curriculum to emphasise subjects such as science and engineering - traditionally seen as remit of men - they risk losing a quarter of pupils in the next 20 years.

Lord Lucas told the Daily Telegraph: 'Schools need to give positive reasons to choose a girls’ school.

'The old reason that without boys they can concentrate may be true for some girls, but most girls who grow up in a co-educational environment do pretty well and find they can manage quite happily.

'I question the old traditional arguments in favour of a girls’ school and I’d like to see something more fundamental and evidence-based and that would make a real difference to the choices parents make.'

His statement has come under fire by heads of all-girls' schools who claim single sex schools are not going out of fashion and it is Lord Lucas' views that are in fact 'old-fashioned'.

Helen Wright, head of St Mary’s School in Calne, Wiltshire, told the Daily Telegraph: 'It is an old fashioned attitude. He seems to have an idea of girls’ schools that they are convent-style establishments from the 19th century.'

All-boys' schools are also seeing a decline with many fee-paying establishments changing their admission rules to accpet girls as well.

Today less than five per cent of schools listed in last year's edition of The Good Schools Guide were all-boys' schools compared to a quarter in the 1980s.


Australia:  Teacher fired by Christian school  over pregnancy

She should not have taken a job there if she did not intend to follow the rules she agreed to

A pregnant and unmarried teacher at a Sunshine Coast Christian college claims she has been sacked for breaking the "lifestyle agreement" part of her contract by having a child out of wedlock.

Jamie Davidson, the sister of kindergarten teacher Jess Davidson, said Jess informed her employer, Caloundra Christian Community Kindergarten, last month that she was pregnant.

Then, two weeks ago after a series of meetings with the principal and deputy principal, she was told she would lose her job at the end of the term.

Jamie said Jess was told she was being sacked for falling pregnant while unmarried.

Jess has had external advice that she should not talk to media.   "She was told that being pregnant and not married did not align with the school's designation as a Christian lifestyle," Jamie said.  "It has put her under a lot of stress and it's really early in her pregnancy.  "She didn't want to tell anyone until around 13 weeks but now everyone knows."

Jess is a single mother who has two children aged seven and nine enrolled at Caloundra Christian College. She was married when she had the children, but when she was first employed by the college two years ago she was a single mother.

"We're just devastated," Jamie said.  "We were really shocked and really surprised it could happen in 2012. We didn't expect this sort of reaction." has obtained a copy of the Lifestyle Agreement which states "it is a genuine occupational requirement" that nothing in the deliberate conduct of the staff "should be incompatible with the intrinsic character of their position, especially, but not only, in relation to the expression of human sexuality through heterosexual, monogamous relationships, expressed intimately through marriage".

Jess signed the agreement when she started at the kindergarten and was working full-time when she was fired.

Principal of Caloundra Christian College Mark Hodges confirmed Jess's employment would be terminated at the end of the term, but said he could not give the reason because of privacy obligations.

"It's not to do with the pregnancy, though she did contravene the lifestyle agreement," he said.

When asked if he was saying he did not sack Jess for being pregnant and unmarried, Mr Hodges said he could not answer because of privacy concerns.  He then sent a statement which said: "As a Christian College we require that all staff have, and demonstrate, a faith and lifestyle consistent with the Christian beliefs taught here.

"These beliefs are set out in College policies and documents, including the agreement under which all staff are employed. This requirement is also made clear to staff prior to appointment.

"Whenever concerns are raised in relation to any issue of staff performance or conduct they are thoroughly investigated by the College and discussed with the staff member concerned.  "Our hope is always to find positive solutions and seek restoration whenever that is possible."

Mr Hodges said he was happy to meet with any parents who wished to discuss the school's policies and practices.

Jamie has set up a Facebook page called "I support Miss Jess" which has attracted more than 300 'likes'.

A parent at the school Melinda Saunders is one of Jess's supporters and has two children who have been taught by her.

She told the Sunshine Coast Daily she met with Mr Hodges to protest Jess's sacking and he gave her a copy of the Lifestyle Agreement as an explanation.

"It's shocking and devastating, it's her job, her whole future and she doesn't need this stress when she is pregnant," Ms Saunders said.


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