There’s a new report on school bullying, but it isn’t about milk money.
The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News identifies the bullies as teachers union advocates and activists who “create an undercurrent of fear through threats, creating unpleasant social situations, and taking action against teachers who speak out.”
“Teachers unions use aggression to retain power and keep teachers ignorant of nonunion competitors,” Joy Pullman, managing editor for the School Reform News and a research fellow in education policy, said in her report.
“They place themselves within every crevice of the teaching profession to ensure the same, from graduate schools of education to pressure on administrators. … Unions maintain their grip on education by restricting the information teachers receive, even when teachers fight to share it.”
Even as school districts across the nation deal with real and perceived student bullying issues daily, Pullman, in an Examiner commentary, cited examples of bullying at a higher level.
“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,” she wrote.
Also, “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,” Pullman reported.
The state unions are large and powerful, the Colorado teacher wrote. “I want to speak out against them,” she said, “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.”
A third scenario was discovered in Jacksonville, Fla., Pullman wrote.
“At a new teacher orientation … 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.”
Explained Pullman, “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.”
Alexandra Schroeck, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Educators, a large nonunion teachers association, said, “This is everywhere.”
Her organization offers insurance, grants and legal representation but does not do collective bargaining. Its fees run $15 monthly, compared to fees of $50 for many union locations.
Other nonunion entities include Educators4Excellence and the California Teachers Empowerment Network, the report said.
Pullman wrote that the AAE’s experience in Utah recently raised concerns.
There, the AAE’s membership director, Charity Smith, was meeting with educators.
“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,” Pullman reported. “Teachers have whispered to her they were interested in leaving the union but couldn’t talk about it openly at school.”
The report explained that overall numbers and percentages simply aren’t available, because teachers fear speaking out.
“Taken alone, they’re isolated annoying incidents,” said the report. “Together, they form a pattern of repression and discrimination akin to the bullying among youngsters which state legislators around the nation have recently worked so hard to end. This merits similar concern.”
Pullman’s report said there is evidence “that teachers unions across the country routinely inhibit teachers from joining or speaking out about competing, nonunion teachers associations. In at least one case, this intimidation has resulted in a teacher losing his job.”
She worked with incident reports from Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas and Utah.
In some locations, the report said, the influence is so powerful that there is great opposition to the idea of teachers even having a choice about representation.
When legislation was proposed in Colorado to expand an annual time period for teachers to drop members in the union, “10 to 12″ teachers expressed support, “but all are afraid to testify or sign their name to a published opinion article in favor … for fear of retribution from the state teachers union.”
In Idaho, the report said, labor groups “maligned their nonunion competitors and denied them equal access to teachers.”
It said in Kansas, public school principals have even refused to let Garry Sigle, of the state’s AAE organization, “enter their schools because the local union affiliate would file a labor grievance against the schools if they did.”
“It’s important to note that all these states except Colorado are right-to-work states – joining a union cannot be required for employment,” Pullman’s report said.
Cindy Omlin, chief of an AAE affiliate in the Pacific Northwest, told Pullman of a teacher in Idaho who set up an information table about a union alternative during teacher orientation.
Following an intimidating letter from the union, Supt. Linda Clark told the teacher, Sandi Long, to take down her table and leave.
Concluded Pullman’s report: “This pattern of repression and discrimination appears to extend beyond restricting access, into outright intimidation and harassment. Teachers report – though without granting permission to use their names – that teachers unions intimidate them. Given the case of a Utah teacher who was released from his job for speaking out, they have good reason to be scared.”