Liberty Justice Center

Teachers Unions Want Schools Closed. Parents Need Their Power Back.

January 26, 2021

(Liberty Justice Center)—Suing teachers unions is the only way to empower parents, protect kids.

For the better part of a year, we have witnessed the financial, emotional and educational struggles of families dealing with school shutdowns – school shutdowns that are extreme when compared to the rest of the industrialized world.

A driving force behind the continued closures are public school teachers unions. But how have teachers unions managed this despite the growing real-world evidence that schools should reopen? And what’s more, how are they advocating for such lockdowns while their own leaders are marching in not-socially-distanced protests and taking Caribbean vacations?

Tactics on repeat, and endorsed by national union leaders, include the general gaslighting of parents and students, tentatively agreeing to open schools but backing out before reopening, and threats to strike. These manipulations are akin to hostage tactics — using kids as pawns in a political game, demobilizing scientifically-endorsed public pressure to reopen, and shaming frightened parents from ever speaking up publicly.


Some union tactics are illegal.

Across the nation, essential government workers such as firefighters and police are not allowed to strike due to public safety concerns. For similar reasons, 35 states also outlaw teachers’ strikes.

In some of the states where teachers strikes are illegal, teachers unions are employing “sick outs”. When faced with the prospect of teaching students in-person, unions are either explicitly or implicitly organizing teachers to call out sick en masse, leaving administrators no option but to either cancel or modify the school day. In other areas, including Chicago, union strikes directly violate state law outlining strike requirements and collective bargaining agreements. 

Meanwhile, parents and students are left in a lurch, searching for last-minute childcare or having to miss a day of work themselves. Either way, it’s an unexpected financial strain on families, and, more importantly, contributes to stress, uncertainty and further learning loss for kids.


A strike by any other name is still a strike.

Work stoppages are illegal strikes. Attorneys at Liberty Justice Center are fighting back against teachers unions’ illegal tactics, including sick outs. 

We have represented parents in West Ada, Idaho and Fairfax, Virginia, whose children were victims of teacher sick outs. So far, the teachers union in Idaho’s largest school district has backed down, admitting the sick out they organized was illegal. 

We worked with the Idaho Freedom Foundation to help these parents. Their vice president, Dustin Hurst, said: “Teachers unions should never use kids as political pawns. And [the West Ada] resolution ensures that won’t happen again.”

Meanwhile, Fairfax parents await any apologies or promises from their teachers union. “You can’t mess with our kids. The kids are not pawns to negotiations between the school board and the unions,” said Fairfax County Public Schools parent Nellie Rhodes who is being represented by LJC. “We are the parents, we are stepping up and taking care of our kids and doing what is best for them.”


The educational monopoly will keep using our children as political pawns.

While our work against teacher sick-outs sets a precedent that helps our students both now and in the long-term, it’s not the ultimate solution to the central issue: The people who pull the strings of the current educational system prioritize political agendas and financial gain over the needs of the families they serve.

Why? Because they can. 

Most parents don’t have the financial means to change their child’s school, even if they see a serious need.
The only way to meet the educational needs of individual students is to put the power of school choice fully in the hands of parents.

That’s where programs like Town Tuitioning in Vermont have the greatest ability to give families equal access to education. The program allows students in certain educational deserts to use their allotted taxpayer funds to attend the school of their choice.

If we win our case on behalf of Vermont parents, we will be breaking down the unconstitutional barrier that stands in the way of all of Vermont’s students using the program. What’s more, it could be the opportunity to set a new precedent for school choice equality across the country.

It will be a huge step toward putting power back in the hands of parents.