Open Letter to RCSD Teachers Regarding Contract: Voting “No” Tomorrow for Students
Editor’s Note: This letter was originally drafted March 22nd, the day before RCSD teachers had to vote on the approval of their contract. It attempts to explain how approving the contract under a few suspicious circumstances is harmful for our students.
Hello Fellow Panthers and Teachers,
As you all know, tomorrow we are to vote on whether or not we approve of the newly drafted RTA contract. What I am about to say isn’t a condemnation of the union that is fighting to increase my pay and bring stability to my school schedule by defining the length of the school day, establishing common planning time, and promoting early student release for teacher meetings. These are all things that I would obviously want as an educator and appreciate as a union member. However, it is also my responsibility as a union member to voice with a corrective love things that startle me. There is a clause in our contract that states the following:
Crimes committed in schools will be pursued as crimes committed elsewhere, to the extent the District has the right to press charges for those crime. In all other events, the District will fully support the teacher who chooses to press charges on his/her own behalf.
We all know how wild some students can be, but we also can’t ignore the fact that the vague nature of this teacher contract clause can be easily abused by professionals. I say that for anecdotal and statistical reasons. I was at a dinner seminar where an educator’s response to the suggestion that pre-K-4th graders shouldn’t being arrested for assault was “a crime is a crime, and those students should get the same punishment as they would if they did it in the streets.” This man’s statement about criminalizing elementary kids for wrong doing was met with considerable applause. The Advancement Project did an independent study about the disciplinary practices of our district, and the results were staggering. The study (found here) shows how we already disproportionately suspend kids for minor infractions, and nationally we disproportionately suspend black, latino, and sped students for the same infractions that other students commit. Imagine how much more malpractice will happen with a clause that provides carte blanche for some of our colleagues that subjectively label our student’s behavior as criminal without an objective process of determining the validity of the accusation. You personally may not participate in inappropriately pursuing charges for students, but that doesn’t mean other teachers haven’t and/or won’t with this vague clause that specifies no grade/age limit, specific misbehaviors, etc.
As I previously stated, there are elements of this contract that are amazing for us, but as I illustrated in the previous paragraph, voting “yes” to this contract as it is currently written would be serving our best interest at the expense of our students. Some of us understand this already, some of us are still comprehending this reality, and some of us may downright disagree with this truth. Disagreeing is a right, and so is a right to discourse, which had been clearly stunted because so few of us as teachers had anything to do with the formulation of this contract and were left with so little time to analyze it before we were instructed to make a quick vote tomorrow morning. I believe we can draft and inform a contract that can equitably serve teachers and students at the same time. Until then, my vote is “no,” and I hope you share these values.
NW & NE Jr./Sr. High @ The Frederick Douglass Campus
940 Fernwood Park
#: 585-324-9273 ext. 3230