An editorial in today's Courier Times . . .
Not nice in Neshaminy
“Never let a crisis go to waste ...” That advice, famously offered by former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, seems to have resonated with the Neshaminy teachers union, whose leaders are getting lots of mileage out of a shoving incident at the high school.
Details are scarce, but the shoving match allegedly involved a high school secretary and a union leader. A criminal complaint was filed by the union.
We’re not dismissing the seriousness of the incident. If a union leader was shoved, as the union contends, it’s a serious infraction — if not criminal — and district officials are obliged to take disciplinary action if police determine that the secretary was the aggressor. That said, union officials are using the incident in an opportunistic way — to blame a school board member’s private blog as well as board inaction for inflaming the community.
This is what can happen, union Vice President Anne Schmidt said, if the school board allows “open season on teachers.” Schmidt was referring to comments on board member William O’Connor’s blog — some of them not very nice. She also referenced public comments at school board meetings, some of which union officials say are either false, inflammatory or both. They said that by letting the comments go unchallenged, the school board is allowing animosity to build up within the community regarding the district’s longstanding contract dispute with the teachers.
There’s some logic to Schmidt’s argument. But her charge against O’Connor and the board absolves the union of any responsibility for ill will. We’ll accept that there is ill will, because to deny it is to deny reality. After four years of acrimony between the union and the board — including two work slowdowns and a boycott of last year’s Back-to-School Nights — well, yeah, the community is a little ticked off. That residents are wearing T-shirts to board meetings in support of the board says something about the community’s feelings.
But let’s not forget that teachers clad in union T-shirts have been a regular part of meetings for some time now. And those union members are hardly silent. Likewise, the union has hardly been understanding of the difficult financial situation both the district and district families are in.
The “Great Recession” is taking its toll on the incomes of both. Yet the union’s demands reflect not today’s tough times, but the boom years of earlier decades. No wonder the community has gotten fed up and perhaps ill tempered.
Still, we’re not excusing bad behavior; it’s simply not acceptable. To that end, the board has a responsibility to address the inaccurate comments of misinformed citizens speaking at meetings. People need to know the truth so misinformation doesn’t unfairly bias anybody.
O’Connor’s situation is a little more dicey. Policing blog comments can be a time-consuming, frustrating and thankless task. We know of what we speak. But if you’re going to invite commentary, the least you should do is remove threatening and tasteless commentary. We trust O’Connor has the sensibility to know what’s acceptable and what’s not.
While we agree with O’Connor that “people are responsible for their own actions,” when people act irresponsibly, those in authority must step in. That goes for board members and union officials alike.