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Union Support of Teachers in Porn Cases is Obscene

Comments | Posted in mi perspectives | By MacIver Institute | Posted May 24, 2011 10:08 AM

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

Most of us know the rules of our jobs. Show up to work on time. Do your work. Don’t skip work to attend protests.

Don’t send pornography on the company computer using the company e-mail.

Pretty simple, straightforward stuff.

Unless you’re a teacher.

With union backing, the rules on sending pornography via the school system’s e-mail suddenly become vague and subjective.

Andrew Harris, a former seventh-grade science teacher at Glacier Creek Middle School in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, was investigated and found to have 23 emails in just over one year containing pornographic images, videos and inappropriate jokes. The school board fired him in May 2010, but Harris’ union has filed a grievance on his behalf.

What should be an automatic termination has already cost the school district about $300,000, and the case is still in arbitration. The situation is already over a year old and the decision by the arbitrator is not expected until October at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the school district is forced to spend money fighting the union instead of putting that money into the classroom to improve education in the district.

The union is claiming that the district policy against “deliberate accessing or transmitting materials that are obscene, sexually explicit or child pornography” is vague. It’s like George Costanza from Seinfeld when caught having sex with the cleaning lady in the workplace, “Was that wrong?”

Of course, Costanza was fired on the spot. A teacher can fight being fired for years at tremendous expense to the school district. Moreover, these fights waste dollars that shoud be spent in the classroom.

In Cedarburg, former Cedarburg High School science teacher Robert Zellner just had his appeal rejected last month by a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Zellner claims he was wrongly terminated in 2006 after he was caught viewing pornographic images on his school computer. Prior to the incident that led to Zellner’s dismissal, the Cedarburg schools superintendent told Zellner he was aware of Zellner’s interest in pornography. When Zellner’s computer had issues, the school district installed monitoring software. Later Zellner disabled the “safe search” option and starting looking at images of “blondes” on Google.

In 2008, Zellner filed the $9 million federal lawsuit against the district that was recently defeated. Interestingly, in both the Zellner and Harris cases the teachers allege that they were singled out for discipline because of their union activities.

Prior to Zellner’s case going to federal court, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in December 2008 the Cedarburg school district spent $267,000 to keep Zellner fired. Meanwhile, Zellner enjoyed the legal services of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union.

From one obscenity to another, the Peshtigo school board is forced to deal with a case of teacher who went a little too wild on his school e-mail account during spring break. Rob Schneider, a chorus teacher in the school district, used his e-mail account to send an obscenity-laden tirade to state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette.

"(Expletive) you!!! I pray that a semi-truck will run you over you piece of (expletive) (expletive)! If there is a God that (expletive) Governor Walker will be riding with you when the truck hits your sorry (expletive)!!!!!!!!!! Stop (expletive) sending me your (expletive)!!! You are a waste of human space!!!!"

Nice. The Peshtigo school district placed Schneider on administrative leave on April 4th and is expected to take up the disciplinary case today. If they decide to discipline Schneider they better be prepared for some big legal bills, Schneider is already using WEAC to issue his public statements.

Lost in all of this is the reason why taxpayers send money to support the schools. It isn’t so teachers unions can fight to the last taxpayer dollar in obvious cases for dismissal. It’s to educate children. Unfortunately the teachers unions in Wisconsin seem to think that the school districts are run for the benefit of the union members, not the educating of children.

It’s reasonable for the taxpayers to expect that the school district should have the ability to remove teachers whose behavior is unprofessional. Under Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair law, school districts would have more authority in setting work rules. However, that law is still tied up in the courts.

The state legislature is actually considering a law to allow for the automatic firing of teachers viewing pornography at work. It’s a shame that its come to that since common sense would dictate that looking at pornography at work would be immediate grounds for dismissal. However, we’re not talking common sense, but union sense—which is uncommonly expensive.