Unions were formed to rightfully negotiate much-needed increases in teacher salaries and protect their interests in the classroom. Unfortunately, some of these protections have gone too far and have unintentionally created an environment that favors the professional well-being of teachers over the well-being of their students.
Public education has been negatively affected by the unjust pressures put on school districts by unions and their defense of teachers despite poor performance, complaints and even ethical violations.
It is harrowingly difficult to fire bad teachers. Many teachers have tenure, which gives them additional protections, and some have the support of unions that are willing to wage legal battles in their defense.
Disregarding proper protocol for dealing with disorderly behavior, Florida teacher Clementine Johnson hurled books and typewriters at her class, according to a 2001 article in Time magazine. She was allowed to stay on the job for another year. In the article, writer Andrew Goldstein called teaching “a profession from which it is almost impossible to be fired,” and not much has changed since.
Teacher Roy Sachse has been employed by the Pinellas school district for 22 years. According to the St. Petersburg Times, he has been written up 20 times for incidents ranging from rules violations to sexually suggestive behavior.
In 2003, Sachse was under investigation after a parent complained that he had watched a student undressing in the girls’ locker room. In 2005, another parent filed a complaint claiming Sasche threatened to pull her daughter’s pants down.
Yet another complaint was filed by a student who claimed that when she asked Sasche what he had gotten her for Valentine’s Day, he replied, “13 inches.”
As if that weren’t enough, Sachse wrote a note to a female student that read, “Can you meet me by the dumpster tonight? From: Coach.”
Sachse was threatened with termination as early as 1997, but his harshest punishment has been a one-day suspension in 2007 after he failed to report a May 2006 arrest for stealing a sandwich. The district’s response was to transfer him to a different school.
Both school districts and teachers unions have exhibited a severe deficiency of wisdom.
Late Pinellas teachers union chief Jade Moore told the Times in December, “Yeah it takes a long time to get rid of (a teacher). And it should.”
For the sake of the students, unions should actively penalize misconduct rather than defend the processes that make firing difficult, and school districts should not cave to pressure and legal restrictions.