Teacher’s union files complaints that Shawnee Mission schools retaliated against teachers

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A metro teacher's union is reacting Friday to what they say was a retaliation transfer of three of its teachers.

In a rare move, the National Education Association of Shawnee Mission has filed a complaint with the Kansas Department of Labor. They claim three teachers from John Diemer Elementary School were involuntarily transferred in retaliation for complaining about their principal.

It has been a decade or more since the Kansas teacher's union has filed a prohibitive-practices complaint with the KDOL, but officials believe they had no choice.

"These teachers feel their reputations have been damaged," Linda Sieck, President of NEA, Shawnee Mission, said.

It all started in 2017 when a new principal showed up at Diemer Elementary. Teachers began complaining about the new head of school in regards to lack of communication, consistent discipline issues and contract violations.

After an investigation, the principal was reassigned to another school as an assistant principal.

"The staff was never informed as to the true nature of what that investigation was or the results of that," Sieck said. 

Two teachers, who also served as union reps at Diemer, believe bringing those concerns to the principal and then the Shawnee Mission School District got them transferred. A third was transferred after filing a grievance.

Sieck said she believes one of the reasons given for the transfers was a culture climate issue at Diemer.

"'We have made some administration changes, we feel like we need to make some teacher change,'" she said in regards to the school district's reason. "The teachers asked, 'Why did you choose me?' And their response was not, 'You have been contributing to that problem,' but, 'we feel that you are excellent teachers.'” 

The Shawnee Mission School District is allowed to transfer teachers at will, but not union reps in retaliation for acting in that capacity.  Usually, an involuntary transfer is the result of staffing issues

"That was not the case here. There was no excess staff at that point," Sieck said. "The three teachers were notified they were being transferred. Within a few days, three positions were posted and filled at Diemer.”

"It would be both inappropriate and against the law for me to comment on a personnel matter, particularly one that is in the arbitration process,"  A spokesperson for the Shawnee Mission School District said in a written statement. "However, I want to be VERY clear: Our administration is committed both to following the law, and to behaving in ways that are both ethical, and in the best interests of our students. That is a high moral standard, but one to which we are both proud and duty-bound to hold ourselves, and there is no room in that standard for acts that might be considered retaliation or retribution. That is antithetical to who we are as individuals, and as an organization.”

Now, the decision about what will happen with the teachers will be decided by the State.

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