A recent epidemic of sexual-misconduct revelations has the Clark County School District scrambling to draft new policies.
The new rules are intended to better govern communications between district employees and students, especially with regards to social media and texting.
While more explicit district standards in this area may be helpful, alone this simply won’t be enough. What makes such misconduct possible in the first place is that the teacher union systematically prioritizes the job security of its members over the safety and security of students.
This shows up most clearly in the lack of public transparency within the collective bargaining process — the process through which the government and its organized workers negotiate for a new contract.
Behind closed doors, it’s all too easy for the representatives of government and of government unions to form a common front against the public — whether it’s the taxpaying public or, as in this case, the youth and families the district was established to serve.
Take for example Article 12, Section 10 of the current collective bargaining agreement between CCSD and the CCEA teacher union.
Often dubbed the “pass the trash” clause, it reads:
In the event civil or criminal proceedings are brought against a teacher and the teacher is cleared of said charge, all written reports, comments or reprimands concerning actions which the courts found not to have occurred, shall be removed from the teacher's personnel file.” (Emphasis added.)
Technically, this standard is actually very strict: It only allows wiping of the files for teachers who meet three very specific conditions — teachers who have:
1) Been the subject of “civil or criminal proceedings,” and
2) Have been “cleared of said charge[s],”
3) Which courts have “found not to have occurred.”
And certainly, if an individual has truly gone through such a process and been cleared by a court, his personnel file should be cleared.
However, that has not been the way CCSD administrators and union reps have been interpreting the article.
Rather, it has been interpreted in such a way that the standard practice is to scrub all allegations of misconduct, regardless of how frequent or credible, unless they are accompanied by a guilty verdict — at which point the predator is allowed to quietly move to another school where new students can be victimized.
Note that the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Broken Trust” series revealed that at least two of the teachers arrested during just the 2016-17 school year “had a known history of inappropriate behavior, according to police records,” yet were permitted to teach anyway.
This is powerful evidence that, for the safety of students and the common welfare of the community, the provisions of collective bargaining agreements need to be crafted publicly and transparently.
For years, critics of back-room dealings have called for transparency in collective bargaining. The latest CCSD scandals merely provide the latest evidence that those calls are justified.
Current state law, however, exempts the bargaining process from Nevada’s Open Meetings Law. This means that all negotiations between the teacher union and CCSD — including those that led to the adoption of Art. 12, Sec. 10 — remain hidden from CCSD parents as well as the taxpaying public.
Sunlight on union negotiations could have precluded this type of clause — and its varying, contradictory interpretations — from ever being adopted in the first place.
Parents witnessing in real time what seems to have been an incoherent union-district discussion would, most likely, have rebelled.
Already wrathful, given the failing educational system for which they must pay, parents are unlikely to react well to union efforts to blindly prioritize the protection of its members from potentially frivolous allegations over the safety of the community’s students.
And it’s all so needless: Several states where government unions enjoy powerful influence — Minnesota, Idaho, Texas, to name a few — have statutes which expressly mandate that all collective bargaining be made public.
Minnesota law, for example, explicitly defines all "negotiations, mediation sessions, and hearings between public employees and public employers or or their respective representatives" as public meetings.
Although some union officials claim that sunlight on negotiations would undermine the bargaining process, there’s no evidence, so far, to support such claims.
In fact, the idea that increased transparency will somehow undermine public policy is completely illogical. Isn’t more information always better than less information for policy-making purposes?
So if CCSD wants to get serious about cracking down on delinquent behavior within its tens of thousands of employees, it should start by offering the public a full view of the bargaining process through which the district’s disciplinary rules are drafted.
Specifically, Nevada should remove the Open Meetings exemption to collective bargaining, thereby mandating that such negotiations be performed in public.
And to those unions who continue to resist transparency on baseless grounds, parents should be asking one simple question: “What are you hiding?”
Daniel Honchariw is a policy researcher and analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a free-market think tank.