There was a second sick-out by teachers at two Jefferson County, Colorado, high schools yesterday. Chalkbeat Colorado reported the story this way:
The Jefferson County Education Association today once again denied any role in the mass teacher absences.
“This was not organized by JCEA but we certainly understand the frustration our teachers and the entire community are experiencing when their school board majority are making decisions in secret, wasting taxpayer dollars, and disrespecting the community’s goals for their students,” said John Ford, president of the union, in a statement.
The John Ford quote does not support the inference made in the first paragraph. “This was not organized by JCEA” may be literally true, but that doesn’t rule out a host of other possibilities:
* It was organized by the Colorado Education Association.
* It was organized by NEA UniServ directors.
* It was organized by teachers at the two high schools, but JCEA approved it.
* It was organized by teachers at the two high schools, JCEA knew about it, and did nothing to discourage it.
Regardless, the Jefferson County school board now has a rare opportunity to use a tactic that has traditionally been deployed only by unions: work-to-rule. The teachers’ contract has a provision titled “Verification of Absence.” It reads:
Upon notice to a teacher, the teacher shall be required to furnish to their supervisor proof of illness. Proof of fitness to return to duty, or proof of fitness to continue to perform duty, as verified by a written statement from a licensed physician, if required, should be submitted to Manager, Employee Leaves. If deemed necessary by the District, the teacher may be required to be examined by a physician designated by the District, at District expense. If a difference of opinion exists between the two (2) physicians, a third physician may be designated, at District expense, to render an opinion.
The contract also requires that one day’s notice to an immediate supervisor is required before taking personal leave.
This requires no legal action on the board’s part, and cannot be considered an “escalation” since it entirely adheres to the negotiated language of the collective bargaining agreement, which as we know is sacrosanct, despite all this celebration of civil disobedience.
Such widespread illness among the teaching staff could signify an outbreak of some kind, and we wouldn’t want to put the students at risk. Best to have those teachers visit a doctor or two or three before returning to work, just to be on the safe side.