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Judge rules in favor of Cincinnati Public Schools; in-person teaching will move forward

Cincinnati Public Schools
Posted at 5:13 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 08:51:46-05

CINCINNATI — After the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers filed a suit on Friday seeking to delay Cincinnati Public Schools' intended return to in-person classes on Tuesday, the judge hearing the case ruled in favor of the district.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa Allen late Monday ruled in favor of the school district, allowing it to go forward with its plan to phase students this month back into a blended model of in-person and remote learning.

Teachers and many parents have protested the district's decision to implement a hybrid teaching structure with in-person instruction before all teachers and staff have been able to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

"The sheer fear that teachers have," said Bennett Allen, attorney for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers union. "We've got dozens of complaints, concerns, inquiries. These are the things that we could have spoken to as part of this ongoing duty to cooperate. We were denied the opportunity to do so."

CFT Monday evening posted a reaction to Allen's decision on Facebook:

In a news release, also posted to Facebook, a union spokesperson wrote: "The contract requires CPS to co-operate with CFT on safety issues and gives union members the right to file grievances contesting unsafe working conditions. CFT will examine its legal remedies in light of the court’s decision today."

CFT filed the complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Friday in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, according to a news release from the union. The action seeks an order to delay in-person instruction until an arbitrator can decide a grievance filed by the union. In the release, CFT argues the lawsuit was necessary to protect staff, students and families from COVID-19.

"The lawsuit was an unfortunate last resort for our union," said CFT president Julie Sellers on Friday. “We are disappointed the Board of Education and Superintendent Mitchell refused to seek input from teachers about when and how to reopen schools safely, even as Hamilton County remains rated 'red' on Ohio’s (public health advisory) COVID rating."

Cincinnati's school board voted Jan. 16 to bring some students back to in-person instruction the week of Feb. 1, beginning with specialized classrooms and younger students on Feb. 2.

"CFT was disappointed to receive Judge Lisa Allen's decision denying CFT’s request to delay in-person instruction until an arbitrator could decide the union’s health and safety grievance," a statement from CFT read in part. "The Judge failed to recognize the union’s fundamental right to enforce the terms of its contract with CPS. The contract requires CPS to co-operate with CFT on safety issues and gives union members the right to file grievances contesting unsafe working conditions."

Cincinnati Public Schools spokesperson Frances Russ released the following statement:

"Today, the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas denied the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers’ motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the lawsuit.

"We look forward to welcoming our students back into the classroom beginning tomorrow, February 2."