Guam Teachers Drop|Suit Over Morals Clause

     (CN) — A teacher’s union on Guam has dropped its legal challenge of a law that authorizes firing teachers for a litany of infractions couched as unethical conduct.
     Saying it would pursue other options, the Teacher’s Federation of Guam chose not to amend a complaint dismissed last month by U.S. District Chief Judge Ramona Manglona.
     Manglona gave the union 30 days to amend after ruling that — absent imminent threat of prosecution — the teachers lacked legal standing to bring their free-speech challenge of Public Law 32-236.
     The Guam Rules Governing the Standards of Professional Conduct, which became law in December 2014 without Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo’s signature, grants subpoena powers to the Guam Commission for Educator Certification in the investigation of any complaint of educator incompetence, intemperance, moral turpitude, negligence, or litany of other, specific infractions.
     Under the law, the commission also has the authority to decertify teachers found in violation.
     In returning the bill to its author, House Speaker Edith T. Won Pat, Calvo said he was troubled by the union’s assertion that public educators were not afforded an opportunity to provide input on the bill. Calvo asked Won Pat to ensure that teachers have a voice.
     Speaking by telephone from Guam, the teachers’ attorney Joshua Walsh of Civille & Tang said that the union did not wish to become involved in lengthy, expensive litigation, noting that Manglona’s decision rests on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Clapper v. Amnesty International that facial challenges must show injury.
     “This isn’t the end of the road. The union is still working to propose legislation. We could bring the case again, cast in a way the judge will like, or even explore our options in Guam district court,” Walsh said.
     Walsh said he was concerned that the law may force teachers into “self-editing” mode, which could have an inhibitory effect on faculty. The union’s court filings noted that school librarian Timothy Fedenko in particular had concern about whether his selection of books might land him before the commission if someone complained.
     “The simplest solution would be for a revised civil code,” Walsh said. “That’s something the union is working on.”

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