West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has gone on record saying the current teacher work stoppage is illegal, but many people question what that could potentially mean for teachers.
According to 7News legal expert, Diana Crutchfield, as long as the county boards of education simply close the schools, then teachers are not in violation of any laws.
However, an issue would arise if any of the counties decided to keep the schools open and teachers chose not to go. Things could also get more complicated if the State Board of Education were to seek an injunction with the Attorney General.
“You can dock teachers, you can dock their pay, but how are you going to replace them? As long as they stay unified, it’s hard for the government to do anything short of a paper-type of enforcement,” Crutchfield said.
Crutchfield said with so many teacher vacancies already in the state, it would make it hard for the government to take any sort of major legal action like stripping teachers of their licenses. It is also indicative of higher wages and better benefits in surrounding states.
She adds there is a remedy for everything, but in some instances, like this one, the problem is the practical application. It raises questions of whether the state would hold 20 thousand teachers in contempt, or fine them.
She adds it’s unusual for all 55 counties to stand united. Even during the teacher strike in the 90’s, not all counties participated.
Crutchfield said a remedy could come during the election, when teachers and public employees could choose to vote out certain lawmakers, the governor, or the attorney general if they so choose.
She said if there is a breach in unity, for instance, if a county files an injunction and the teachers decide not to challenge it and go back to work – while other teachers across the state are not working, that could create problems.
With the legislative session coming to a close on March 10, it’s likely a special session will have to be called to come to a resolution on the issue.
In the end, Crutchfield said that everyone wants to come to a resolution – that teachers want to get back to the classroom, students want to get back to school, and parents want their kids to be back in school.
“We’re only four days into it, and with more time, they’ll get a little closer to working it out,” she said.