Teacher privacy or that of unions? A Democratic state representative from Allegheny County has introduced legislation that would exempt public school employees -- schoolteachers -- from a key provision of the state's Right to Know Law.
The legislation, which would prevent the release of the home addresses of teachers and other school employees, is cast by supporters as a privacy issue.
Teachers and other school employees would join law enforcement personnel and judges, whose home addresses are now exempt under the law.
"This exemption will protect a public school employee's right to privacy in their own home, and provide school employees with an additional layer of protection from potentially harmful individuals," says State Rep. Dom Costa.
But teachers are public employees, paid with public dollars, who work in public schools. They work with children and parents. Their jobs, and those people they work with, are nothing like that of police, prosecutors or judges, who could face harm from vengeful thugs who resent their time in prison.
The protection sought by unions for its members not only is unnecessary, but it assists to shield from discovery the teacher, school worker or administrator who engages in wrongdoing.
When the exact home address of a public official is not available, it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify individuals with criminal records or those involved in criminal activity.
If the school employee has a common name -- Martin or Smith, for example -- it is difficult to ascertain with certainty whether that person has a criminal record -- say, of sexual abuse -- in another state.
The same difficulty emerges if one is trying to establish a pattern of misspending of taxpayer dollars on travel or lavish parties. (These are not hypothetical situations -- Pennsylvania and Lancaster County have seen in recent years prosecution of teachers for sexual misdeeds and exposure of administrators for spending big on the taxpayers' dime.)
For decades, people are fully identified by name, age and address. Current law does not make disclosure of age mandatory. Making addresses secret would further obscure who the recipients of public tax dollars are. It's a trend that makes it all the easier for wrongdoers to escape detection.
Teachers may respond that the vast majority in their profession are dedicated public servants, who hold the education of students foremost in their minds. They might say, fairly, that they are subject on rare occasion to an irate parent or student knocking on their door.
But such rare instances should not drive the law. If a student, or parent, harasses or threatens a teacher, the proper remedy is stern prosecution of the criminal act. It's not making a whole class of public servants difficult to identify.
The protection sought by unions for its members not only is unnecessary, it shields from discovery the public school employee who engages in wrongdoing.