The Right to Know What’s Happenin’ With Chariho
It looks like the attempt by the National Education Association to place restrictions on school committee members’ communication with the public in the Chariho district has come to an end. NEA Assistant Executive Director Peter Gingras, who last year filed a Labor Relations Board complaint against the Chariho School Committee making the vague assertion that Committeeman William Felkner’s publishing of the Chariho School Parents Forum blog constituted an attempt “to communicate directly with bargaining unit members represented by the union”, has notified the LRB that he wishes to withdraw the complaint.
Over at CSPF, Committeeman Felkner has posted a letter written by Hopkinton resident Mary Botelle which eloquently describes the multiple flaws in the premise of the NEA complaint…
- Freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed to all citizens. In this era, websites provide an electronic form of assembly and the written word replaces the spoken word. Therefore, Chariho School Parents’ Forum, managed by William Felkner, provides parents and taxpayers with a method of making their concerns and opinions known…
- Section 16-2-9.1 of the General Laws entitled Code of Basic Management Principles and Ethical School Standards (copy enclosed) provides the standards to be followed by school committees.
It is to be noted that subsection (4) and (5) refer to communication with the public:
(4) Accept and encourage a variety of opinions from and communication with all parts of the community.Therefore, it is clear that the committee should invite the community to participate so that decisions made will reflect the will of the community, and to provide information so that the community will be properly informed.
(5) Make public relevant institutional information in order to promote communication and understanding between the school system and the community.
To its credit, the LRB never appeared to take the complaint very seriously. However the process dragged on, in part, because Chariho Superintendent Barry Ricci and the Chariho school board’s lawyer seemed unable to summon any enthusiasm for defending the free speech and due process rights of school committee members, or for defending the right of the public to be given as much information as possible about school committee proceedings. The lesson here is to be wary of the nexus between government bureaucrats and labor unions; they sometimes act under the assumption that they can agree to bargain away the Constitutional rights of the general public. Expect this issue to pop-up in Rhode Island in various forms over the next few years.