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River Dell Education Association and Robert Cotto v. River Dell Board of Education

Decided: January 18, 1973.

THE RIVER DELL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION AND ROBERT COTTO, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE RIVER DELL BOARD OF EDUCATION, A BODY POLITIC AND CORPORATE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT



Pashman, A.j.s.c.

Pashman

Plaintiff seeks to restrain defendant River Dell Board of Education (hereinafter "board") from implementing a policy designed to curtail certain discussions between students and teachers.

Defendant board is responsible for two schools, one junior high school and one senior high school, in a regional district comprised geographically of River Edge and Oradell. Plaintiff River Dell Education Association (hereinafter "association") is the collective bargaining agent representing teachers employed by defendant board. In November 1972 negotiations were undertaken between the association and the Board to produce a collective bargaining agreement for the academic year 1973-74.

In an effort to prevent disruption of school routine and procedures by prolonged discussion of the negotiations between students and teachers, the board, through the superintendent of schools, proposed to the association's president, plaintiff Cotto, a new policy prohibiting teachers from answering students' questions regarding the negotiations. The proposal was rejected by Cotto, after which a memo was sent to the faculty by the superintendent describing the situations in which such discussions are to be avoided and stating that the memo is to be accepted as "policy" of the board, to be added to the Staff Manual (1972-73). The memo follows:

Memo to: Faculty

From: Richard A. Veit

Re: Negotiations

Date: November 21, 1972

There are times during the heat of negotiations between teacher associations and boards of education when students become very interested and concerned. Naturally, youngsters ask questions in the classroom, hallways, and during extra-curricular activities. Should you be placed in this somewhat precarious position, please inform the inquisitive youngsters that negotiations between a Board and professional teachers' association are not to be discussed for obvious reasons.

Please accept this as policy of the River Dell Regional Board of Education and add the above paragraph to page 25 of the Staff Manual (1972-73) as item # 8, under COMMUNICATIONS.

RAV:dm

The complaint asserts that the association was advised that any breach of the new policy, to be determined by the board, would be considered insubordination, with possible discharge, removal of tenure, ...


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