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Judge denies teachers union request to dismiss CCSD lawsuit

Updated November 14, 2023 - 5:08 pm

A district judge issued an order last week denying a teachers union request to dismiss a lawsuit the Clark County School District filed this summer that aimed to prevent a teacher strike.

Judge Jessica Peterson ruled Nov. 7 to deny the Clark County Education Association’s anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, which stands for “strategic lawsuits against public participation.” It comes after she heard oral arguments and issued a preliminary ruling in September.

The union on Friday filed a notice that said it would appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

It’s the latest action in a couple of lawsuits involving the school district and teachers union — which represents more than 16,000 licensed employees — spurred by contentious collective bargaining.

The district and the union didn’t responded to a request for comment by deadline Tuesday.

Union members have held protests since July amid contract negotiations. In mid-September, the district declared an impasse after 11 bargaining sessions since late March and the matter now heads to arbitration.

And in mid-September, a district judge ruled that a teacher strike had occurred following rolling sickouts and issued a preliminary injunction.

In her order last week, Peterson wrote that because the district isn’t complaining about teachers’ “speech or petitioning activity” itself, the lawsuit isn’t subject to dismissal under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute.

The district is “not attempting to keep the teachers or the union from petitioning or from speaking out about issues that are affecting the teachers,” Peterson wrote.

The lawsuit, she wrote, was filed “to stop the teachers from engaging in a strike, which is illegal and thus is not protected.”

Under state law, public employees — including teachers — are prohibited from striking.

Status of lawsuits

In July, the district filed a lawsuit against the union seeking to halt a future teacher strike. The district cited public statements made by union officials about the possibility of engaging in “work actions” if a collective bargaining agreement wasn’t reached.

In August, the union filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, alleging the district’s lawsuit was an attempt to chill educators’ First Amendment rights.

Peterson denied the district’s request for an injunction in August, saying there wasn’t enough evidence showing a teacher strike would occur.

But Peterson noted that statements made by CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita were concerning and that she could reconvene court quickly, if needed.

In mid-September following teacher sickouts that closed eight schools for one day each, District Judge Crystal Eller ruled that a teacher strike had occurred and ordered a preliminary injunction.

The union, which has denied any involvement in the sickouts, filed a notice of appeal and an emergency motion for stay.

The Nevada Supreme Court denied the emergency motion in September and the appeal remains pending.

In October, the union filed a lawsuit in District Court against the state and school district seeking to overturn the state’s longtime ban on public employee strikes. The case is also pending.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com. Follow @julieswootton on X.

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