COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – Personal information of substitute teachers who were harassed during a strike must be released to Cleveland’s union boss, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled.
The substitutes, who were jeered with obscene language when they applied for jobs and went to work, hoped to prevent the release of their names and addresses for fear of retaliation.
The harassment took place during a March 2014 strike by the Strongsville Education Association, and included a “wall of shame” on the Association’s website, accompanied by “derogatory and offensive comments,” according to the March 25 slip opinion.
One replacement teacher reported that she was driving home after work “when a car pulled up next to her and the passenger yelled ‘scab’ and threw an object against her windshield, breaking the glass.”
Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke made several requests for the replacement teachers’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and payroll information during the strike, all of which were denied by the school board.
Quolke filed suit, and the Cuyahoga County Appeals Court eventually determined that the school board had to release the information because it had insufficient evidence to back up claims that the subs were in imminent danger.
Five of the seven justices affirmed the decision of the Appeals Court, and in their joint opinion clarified that any danger to the teachers passed when the strike ended in late April 2014.
The justices wrote: “The board points out that one of the threats against the replacement teachers was that their decision to work during the strike would ‘follow them throughout their careers.’ However, the court of appeals granted the writ specifically because the board had presented little or no evidence that once the strike was over, there was any remaining threat to the replacement teachers.”
They concluded: “The court of appeals did not abuse its discretion by holding that the danger of retaliation or physical harm to the replacement teachers had receded at the time that it made its decision and that the board is now obligated to produce the relevant documents with the teachers’ names unredacted.”
Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Judith Ann Lanzinger dissented.
O’Donnell wrote: “The passage of a few months after the settlement of the strike without incident does not permit the inference that the risk of disclosing the replacement teachers’ names has diminished, nor does a decision based on a lack of new incidents adequately consider the animosity that picketers and others displayed toward the replacement teachers during the strike.”
In his dissent, O’Donnell recapped the behavior of picketers during the strike, and concluded that “the evidence here demonstrates that a decision allowing the disclosure of names of the replacement teachers fails to take into account the nature of the animosity that exists between the former strikers and their replacements and may expose the replacement teachers to a substantial risk of serious bodily harm that could last indefinitely, violating their right to personal security and bodily integrity.”
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