(Daily Caller) – A Rhode Island educator sued his former school on Dec. 30 after allegedly being fired for choosing to opt out of the teachers’ union.
John Lancellotta filed a lawsuit against West Warwick Public Schools alleging that when he chose to no longer pay his teachers’ union dues and leave the union, administration decided to deny him tenure and not renew his contract. Lancellotta alleges that he chose to leave the union because it took “positions on political and social matters which did not match his own opinions” and that his First Amendment rights were violated.
“The decision to opt out of a union should not cost someone their job,” Derk Wilcox, senior attorney for the Mackinac Center, a group that challenges government overreach and who filed the lawsuit on Lancellotta’s behalf, said in a Wednesday press release. “Not renewing John Lancellotta’s contract in retaliation for his opting out of the union is a clear violation of his constitutional rights. School districts across the country must recognize and respect public employees’ First Amendment rights as protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision.”
Lancellotta alleges that he could not have been fired because of performance as he had never been given a grade below “highly effective” or “effective” on performance reviews. The appeals process of the termination allegedly showed that the school did not take into account Lancellotta’s performance evaluations and had made the decision to fire him based off of the department head’s recommendation.
“The district considers the [union] to be a ‘district partner,’” Sean Doyle, president of the West Warwick Teachers’ Alliance labor union, told Lancellotta after he chose to leave the union. “In my twenty-seven years here, the [school district] has never carried an (sic) non-union member in it’s (sic) employment.”
Rhode Island teacher fired for opting out of union membership | This action is a clear violation of his First Amendment rightshttps://t.co/HokNEEc6tB
— Mackinac Center (@MackinacCenter) January 5, 2023
West Warwick Public School’s lawyers allegedly teamed up with the union’s lawyers to prepare the school’s position for the hearing despite being told by the hearing chair the matter was not to be discussed, the lawsuit stated.
“School districts across our state are violating the constitutional rights of their own teachers,” Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a group focused on protecting union members’ freedoms and choice, said in a press release. “West Warwick was one of about a dozen school districts in Rhode Island our Center identified in a report last March that maintained blatantly unconstitutional language in its collective bargaining agreement, deceiving teachers into believing they must pay the union. To then manifest this bogus language into illegal action by firing John Lancellota is an injustice that the courts must remedy.”
West Warwick Public Schools, the Mackinac Center and West Warwick Teachers’ Alliance labor union did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.