Sickening as it is, Strongsville school district should be forced to reveal subs’ names
COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the end, the right of citizens to secure information from government is pretty darned important.
Even if that means a school district has to turn over the names and addresses of brave people who served as substitutes during a teacher strike to a vengeful teachers union.
About a year ago union teachers in Strongsville, Ohio abandoned their students for nearly two months. During that time, 372 educators had the courage to cross the picket lines and make sure the students had some form of instruction while their regular teachers had their labor tantrums outside on the sidewalk.
The substitutes were treated badly by union thugs. One car window was smashed. A union worker reportedly swerved a van in the path of a carload of substitute teachers. Fliers were handed out in the neighborhoods of known subs, informing residents that they lived near “scabs.”
One striker told an African-American sub that “Rose Parks would be ashamed of you.”
When the strike was settled, the union teachers went happily back to work while the substitutes were cast aside with a “thank you” from the school board.
But the union couldn’t move on without seeking revenge against the subs.
An official with the nearby Cleveland teachers union filed a freedom of information request, seeking the names and addresses of all 372 subs. The school district refused the request, citing concern for the safety of these people. A Court of Appeals sided with the union official, and now the case is before the Ohio Supreme Court, according to an editorial in the Columbus Dispatch
The justices of the court will have to make a troubling decision.
The Cleveland union official has not, to our knowledge, announced why he wants the information, and has no legal responsibility to do so. But we’re not dumb. We suspect the union has every intention of spreading around those names, so they will be blackballed if they seek employment in other school districts.
The union may even have uglier plans for the substitutes, which may require police intervention and protection.
How ironic that a union official would be fighting for information about school employees, when teachers unions around the nation have fought tooth and nail to keep teacher evaluation information from being released to the public.
Parents simply want to the right to know if their child has a competent teacher, and the unions are in an uproar over the idea.
But when they want personal information about educators who crossed their picket line, then they’re all for freedom of public information.
It’s enough to make your stomach turn.
But the fact remains that access to government information is crucial to democracy. It’s a powerful tool for citizens to track the actions of government officials and hold them accountable.
Real trouble would come if government entities – even public schools – are allowed to pick and choose what information can be shared with the public and what can be withheld.
If it’s the school’s business, it’s our business, because we pay the bills.
It would be nice if only decent people used freedom of information laws for noble purposes. But union officials are citizens, too, and must share the same right.
But if the Supreme Court forces the school to release the list of names and addresses, the police in communities where the former subs live must be ready to respond quickly to protect them, if necessary.
The poor folks who did a good deed for the students of Strongsville deserve at least that much.
Authored by Steve Gunn