Grand Forks teachers union asks for leave policy changes, recourse for property damage
The Grand Forks teachers union seeks changes to the school district's leave policy amid an uptick in workplace injuries. Under a new proposal from the Grand Forks Education Association, teachers wouldn't need to use personal leave or sick time if...
The Grand Forks teachers union seeks changes to the school district's leave policy amid an uptick in workplace injuries.
Under a new proposal from the Grand Forks Education Association, teachers wouldn't need to use personal leave or sick time if they miss school due to "injury or trauma from a threat or violence that occurred during employment." They'd still receive full salary during their absence, according to the proposal.
GFEA unveiled the proposal at a Monday night meeting with the Grand Forks School Board's teacher contract negotiation committee. The proposal, which followed a handful of meetings with the committee, marks an early step toward a new teacher contract in the district.
Teachers' current working conditions are "coming at a cost," said Tom Young, GFEA's chief negotiator. Late last week, GFEA laid out dozens of comments from Grand Forks teachers who said they've suffered numerous assaults from students .
"These conditions that we're working in ... are coming at a cost to teachers," Young told committee members. "They're costing us emotionally, they're costing us physically, they're costing us financially and they're costing us time. Some of those aspects are hard to deal with in a negotiated agreement, but some of them can be addressed, and we can make progress."
In an explanation of the proposal, GFEA members wrote that "student behaviors are becoming erratic."
"Teachers are at a higher risk of being injured and/or traumatized along with having their personal property being damaged and/or destroyed," GFEA members wrote. "Teachers should not fear for their safety when they report for work."
There have been 38 recorded instances in the history of the school district when GFEA members have had to use sick leave or personal time due to student violence in the workplace, according to the association.
Committee members said they'd need more time to review the proposal's specifics and potential legal ramifications.
"My first inkling and gut feeling is this proposal and our negotiated agreement should be looked at by our legal counsel so they can guide us in understanding if there are any conflicts," said committee member Amber Flynn, who also serves as vice president of the board.
Under another proposal presented Monday night, GFEA asked the district to reimburse teachers if their personal property is damaged by students.
Teachers often buy many classroom materials on their own dime, union members said. However, committee member Shannon Mikula expressed concern about the broadness of the proposal.
"For the district to sign on to a blanket statement like that without understanding or being able to estimate what a cap on damages might look like, that's a pretty big liability on the books," Mikula said.
The committee and GFEA are slated to meet at least two more times this month to continue negotiations.