Teachers’ suit heard by New York’s top court
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In Lucia’s ruling eight months later, the appellate court concluded that the school district’s requirement to provide for the safety of the children and to ensure the proper functioning of the school overrides any First Amendment rights embodied in the protest. But it nonetheless complied with the precedent established in the Santer case and ruled in Lucia’s favor.
The district appealed the rulings, sending the cases to the State Court of Appeals.
Santer, who was Woodland’s union president at the time of the protest, is now a teacher at Bowling Green Elementary. Lucia teaches at East Meadow High School.
Manhattan-based attorney George Pauta, who represents the East Meadow School District, said the case is important “to establish that school districts can take action when its teachers — while they may be acting in the bounds of the law — are still doing things that are not in the interest of health or safety for students.”
Pauta said that because the teachers parked on Wenwood Drive that morning, “Parents had to stop in the middle of the street. That created quite the amount of congestion around the school, causing 16 teachers to be late by more than 10 minutes. That results in an unsupervised educational setting.”
He added that court documents failed to mention that Woodland’s principal at the time called the police to intervene during the protest. “We needed to appeal because otherwise that decision would negatively affect not only the East Meadow School District, but all school districts in Long Island,” Pauta said. “It really undercuts their responsibility to maintain the health and safety of the students.”
Santer and Lucia are represented by the New York State United Teachers, the state teachers union, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Gary Spencer, a spokesman for the Court of Appeals, said that a decision will most likely be handed down in the court’s next session, which begins March 24.