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Board votes on rules for Geneva teachers on picket line

Updated: November 6, 2012 9:00AM

GENEVA — Teachers and others manning picket lines for the Geneva Education Association will have to stay off School District 304 property and avoid blocking any access to schools, district headquarters or any other district facilities, the Board of Education voted Monday.

Board members also suspended a district bylaw that requires new policies to be discussed in public session at two or more meetings so that they could get the picketing policy on the books before Friday, the first day teachers could stage a strike. Both votes were unanimous, though board member Matt Henry was absent.

“Each person and parent having custody of any student attending this district has the right to send such student and maintain such student in regular attendance at a public full-time school during the school year, unless exempt by law. Therefore, unobstructed vehicular and other access to school property must be provided for school patrons, students, school buses, law enforcement, fire protection, deliveries and others,” states the new policy, as read by board President Mark Grosso.

Picketers will be banned from marching on school property, board members agreed. They will be able to use public sidewalks that border school property, as well as any other sidewalks or public thoroughfares. Before Monday’s meeting, more than 100 GEA representatives were picketing at the intersection of State Street and Lincoln Avenue, two blocks from the Coultrap School building where the meeting was held.

Even if they’re on public land, picketers cannot block access to school property by anyone, including students, staff, bus drivers or service and repair companies. The district can discipline employees who try to keep people from entering school grounds, and officials are prepared to charge picketers found on school property with criminal trespass, Grosso warned.

Teachers left the meeting unfazed by the new policy. “This was no surprise to us,” said Harrison Street Elementary School teacher Sheri Miles. “We never wanted to picket near schools or keep children from going into their schools. We’re really hoping we can avert a strike so we won’t have to picket at all.”

The two sides will return to the negotiating table this afternoon.

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