News Story

Predators Back In the Classroom? It Could Happen

Proposal 2 would overrule state laws mandating certain protections

Supporters of Proposal 2 say an ad claiming the union-backed measure could eliminate protections against teachers accused of sexually abusing students or failing to reveal a criminal history is unfair.

One group, the Michigan Truth Squad, calls the claim a “foul,” stating that it “veers into hyperbolic” territory because it is hard to believe school boards, administrators and teachers would agree to a contract that would allow predators in the classroom. 

But can it happen?

Technically the answer is yes, said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

"It may be a little extreme, but if the background checks are in state law, they could be eliminated," he said.

The state's largest teachers' union, the Michigan Education Association, says Proposal 2 would not change the background checks section of the school code, but Vernuccio says that is a hyper-technical way of looking at it because removing those safeguards will be fair game under Proposal 2.

“It can happen," said Nick DeLeeuw, spokesman for the anti-Prop 2 group, Hands Off Our Constitution. "The truth squad is wrong.”

Hands Off Our Constitution based its claim that background checks on school employees could be eliminated on a memo it says was leaked from the MEA. That memo reportedly said that Proposal 2 would overturn prohibited bargaining topics created by PA 103, such as teacher discipline.

The MEA did not return a request for comment.

DeLeeuw said the group's concern is bolstered by the revelation that the teachers' union in one school district, Bay City, negotiated in January to protect teachers who repeatedly show up to school under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.

The story, first reported by Michigan Capital Confidential, revealed that Bay City teachers could get five strikes for being drunk and three strikes for being under the influence of drugs, before they can be fired. In addition, the union contract said a misdemeanor sale of drugs from teachers to students could not result in a firing until a second offense. The contract stated that if PA 103 was overturned, the protections would stay in place.

That contract has since expired but teachers are covered by it until a new one is agreed upon. The district's superintendent would not say the union protections for drug or alcohol offenses would be eliminated.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.