Idaho parents fight to ensure the teachers union won’t shut down schools again

October 20, 2020

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Idaho state law bans government employees from going on strike. A group of parents has asked a state trial judge to declare this week’s stunt an “illegal strike” so it doesn’t happen again.  

BOISE, Idaho (Oct 20, 2020) — As the West Ada School District announced it would reopen on Wednesday, a group of parents filed a lawsuit arguing this week’s “sick out” was an illegal union strike, and that the teachers union cannot use the threat of another work stoppage to force the district to meet its demands.

“After weeks and months of preparing to return to school, the teachers union held kids’ education hostage because it was not happy with the reopening plans agreed upon by school officials and the community. Not only is this type of behavior morally reprehensible and harmful to our kids, it’s illegal,” said Dustin Hurst, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is supporting the parents in this lawsuit. “The teachers union must know that it cannot threaten to withhold education from our kids in order to pressure the community to meet its demands.”

The parents are represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that won a pivotal Supreme Court case against the government unions in 2018.

Like other districts around the country, West Ada School District closed in-person operations in March and started the new school year in a remote learning model. The district has been phasing in some of its 40,000 students for in-person classes and was set to welcome back more students on Monday. Those plans were halted when more than 700 of the district’s 2,145 teachers called in “sick” in protest of reopening.

“Kids need to be in school and it’s up to adults to make that happen, not to use kids as pawns in some sort of political negotiation,” said Daniel Suhr, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “The strike organized by the West Ada Education Association is not only illegal, it’s also incredibly disruptive for families and damaging for students’ academic achievement and emotional wellbeing.”

The impact of closed schools on communities is devastating. Kids have missed out on more than six months of in-person education. Families are struggling financially. One mother in the lawsuit is an essential worker who had to bear the added financial burden of childcare for her elementary school-aged son who is struggling emotionally with the unpredictable school situation. Another father says the school cancellations are causing anxiety and fear of “falling behind” for his kids.

“I have three young kids in West Ada schools and they are reeling from yet another disappointment this week,” said Roy Ratliff, parent of three West Ada elementary school students. “The sudden changes in school are leaving my kids and others with emotional and academic anxiety. It is time for adults to be leaders and put our kids first.”

Case filings are available here: Ratliff v. West Ada Education Association

Complaint, Oct 20, 2020
Motion for Injunctive Relief, Oct 20, 2020
Affidavits, Oct 20, 2020
Motion for Expedited Hearing on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Oct 21, 2020


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