By Steve Gunn
STRONGSVILLE, Ohio – At a recent union rally in Strongsville, Ohio, a union speaker from Cleveland suggested that the community should be “kissing the feet” of the striking public school teachers.
For what, exactly?
As a new EAGnews video clearly illustrates, Strongsville is a community in torment. The teachers walked out on their students more than seven weeks ago, and the only thing positive that’s happened since then is that school has remained open.
That’s because the school board had the courage to hire replacement teachers, and those teachers had the courage to ignore the abuse of union members to help students complete their school year on time.
Other than that, there’s been utter chaos, most of it courtesy of a union that seems to have no concept of fundamental decency.
Union members cursed and threatened replacement teachers when they came to apply for their jobs. They have been arrested for blocking school driveways and allegedly swerving their vehicles at other vehicles carrying replacement teachers. They have staged protests outside the homes and workplaces of school board members.
They have handed out fliers in the neighborhoods of replacement teachers, asking people if they knew they were living by “scabs.” They have picketed outside the schools during class and did their best to make noise to disrupt the sessions.
Those ugly stories come from previous news accounts. EAGnews’ Jeremy Segal came across even more disturbing tales when he interviewed striking teachers, students and concerned parents in Strongsville last week.
“I’ve talked to so many parents and people are scared,” said Erica Goe, a Strongsville parent. “I’ve never seen such an amount of fear in a community that’s been brought on by a group of professionals. These are nurses, school counselors and teachers.
“I don’t even know where I’m at anymore. This is not Strongsville, Ohio. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone most of the time.”
Segal learned the striking teachers have attempted to make the public fear the replacement teachers, suggesting that they are criminals and pedophiles who have not been screened by the district, when indeed they have been.
“They’re saying the (replacement) teachers aren’t qualified, the students aren’t learning anything, the schools are a jungle and students are doing anything they want,” Matthew Hebebrand, an attorney who serves as one of the replacement teachers, tells Segal.
The striking teachers have been encouraging parents to keep their kids out of school during the strike. Goe claims the union put information on a website, telling parents their children can avoid “truancy problems” by skipping nine days, attending school on the tenth day, then leaving early if they want.
“These are teachers,” Goe said. “They’re supposed to have kids in the classroom.”
One union leader interviewed by Segal seems to be suggesting that violence could be a legitimate option for the striking teachers.
“They’re terrified we’re potentially going to harm the subs, but maybe they should be responsible and check out whether these people have the credentials to teach what they say they can teach,” union spokeswoman Christine Canning told Segal.
How about a disclaimer regarding possible harm to subs? Canning offered no such guarantee.
She pointed to security guards who were hired by the district to protect campus, staff and students during the strike. When Segal asked her what the district was so afraid of, she just laughed and responded by saying, “Oh, goodness.”
That sort of veiled threat doesn’t impress parent Dave Potter.
“After you’ve watched some of the behavior and conduct … wouldn’t you want that type of security?” Potter told Segal.
Most people seem to feel the same way as Potter. In a recent poll of Strongsville residents, 74 percent said they opposed the strike and 71 percent said they disapproved of the union. Those feelings were even shared by 61 percent of respondents who have a union member in their household.
Potter said he believes the school board has honestly offered the best financial package it can offer to teachers.
“At some point, you have to decide whether you accept it or you go your own way,” he said.