Picket Lines Keep Strongsville Police Busy
As teachers strike, school parking lots are hotspots
School parking lots have become the unofficial battlegrounds in the ongoing teachers' strike, with picketers and motorists on the front lines.
Allegations on both sides and flown, with two teachers charged with crimes for their behavior and two others suffering minor injuries after being struck by vehicles.
On March 4, the first day of the strike, Strongville police got nine calls about picketers blocking driveways before 8:30 a.m.
There were fewer calls in subsequent days, but Strongsville police have stationed an officer outside each school building since Day 1, and that's not likely to change, Safety Director Charles Goss said.
"We're not going anywhere," Goss said. "As long as there are concerns for public safety, we are committed to being there."
A Right to Picket
Goss said picketing strikers have wide berth under federal law to congregate in public places. Sidewalks, he said, are public places, and picketers have the right to walk in front of school buildings.
They don't have the right to block driveways, though, which has led to verbal disputes between teachers and parents dropping off their children, who have complained a number of times that the picketers are slow to move out of the way.
Goss said police are able to enforce local laws if either side doesn't follow police orders or makes a threat.
Some of the picket-related incidents:
On March 5, a teacher picketing at Kinsner reported she was grazed by a car driven by a parent at the school.
On March 6, a picketer outside Center was arrested for disorderly conduct when he allegedly failed to move out of the driveway for a car -- after a police officer told him repeatedly not to block.
And on March 7, a teacher was charged with reckless operation for his actions with a van bringing substitutes to Kinsner.
Also on March 7, about seven cars belonging to teachers that were parked on Holiday Drive were egged, a report said. Another teachers' car was egged in the Discount Drug Mart parking lot.
Goss acknowledged that the police department is incurring overtime expenses by stationing officers outside the schools all day.
The Strongsvile Education Association, which represents 383 teachers, guidance counselors and psychologists, voted to strike March 4 after failing to reach a contract agreement with the Strongsville Board of Education.