When Teachers are Bullied, Do Teachers Unions Care? ~Paying Attention with Tom Duggan


Lawrence High School
Lawrence High School

Do teachers’ unions really care about the teachers they are responsible for protecting and defending?

It seems like every time I see a story about teachers unions they are always painted, and painting themselves, as caring about “the children” and “unwavering” defenders of teachers who are bullied by savage administrators and superintendents.

Meet Lawrence Public Schools teacher, Brenda Sudol-Kirwin.

For the last several months, I have been researching her case and how she was unmercifully targeted and bullied by her school principal (and administrators) to the point of a near nervous breakdown and continued psychological problems.

It’s a very complicated case, but to boil one part of it down for you in advance of next month’s story, Sudol-Kirwin was bullied to the point of going out on medical leave, and then had to fight for sick time and medical benefits.
Documents from her many doctors say she exhibits symptoms of PTSD and other psychological issues as the result of her being bullied.

She says that because the principal of her school was politically connected and had targeted her, several administrators went on a campaign to destroy her professional career and deny her benefits. An arbitrator did find in Sudol Kirwin’s favor ordering the Lawrence Public Schools to pay her for accrued sick time, as well as pay all her medical bills.

But shortly after the City of Lawrence finally paid up, they sent her a termination notice … while she is still being treated for her PTSD.

I asked her what Frank McLaughlin, the Lawrence Teachers Union President, had to say about all this. Her answer was stunning.

“They are refusing to represent me on my appeal. It’s that simple. They have barely done anything for me and my case since day one.”

But, I wasn’t born yesterday and I’m not in the habit of just believing everything people tell me. So, I asked her for some proof. Minutes later, an email popped up in my inbox from Joe Lettiere, attorney for the Lawrence Teacher’s Union, which reads:

“… with respect to your request, Ms. Sudol-Kirwin, that the Lawrence Teachers Union provide representation to you in appealing LPS’ decision to terminate your employment, the Union has asked me to respond on its behalf that it respectfully declines to do so.

As you know, of course, your right to appeal that decision arises under state law, rather than from the Union’s collective bargaining agreement, and is thus a right which is personal to you. Therefore you may certainly proceed with such an appeal either on your own or by engaging the services of private counsel.

Thank you. Joseph R. Lettiere, Associate Counsel, AFT Massachusetts, Local 8019.”

In other words, kiss off.

We emailed Atty. Lettiere asking why the teachers’ union chooses not to help Sudol-Kirwin. They also told me to kiss off. “The Union cannot comment on this matter.”

Given the preaching and pandering we hear from public school officials about bullying in the schools, I just find it bizarre that it’s the school administrators and a principal who were themselves the bullies in the case of Brenda Sudol-Kirwin. It’s also somewhat revealing to find that the teachers union built into their own member’s contract, a provision that let’s them bail out when teachers appeal termination while still being treated for their injury.
You see, teachers unions do not care about protecting teachers, educating children, or defending those in need of benefits.

What they care about is making money, maintaining their power, creating a false media image of what they are and what they do, all the while hanging teachers out to dry who are themselves the victims of bullying.