Cranston teachers union sues over Good Friday


CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The Cranston Teachers’ Alliance is suing the Cranston School Department for allegedly requiring teachers to work on Good Friday.

According to the teachers’ union, the school department denied nearly 200 Christian teachers’ requests to have Good Friday off, in part because of scheduling problems related to snow days.

The Cranston school calendar crafted for the 2014-2015 school year scheduled Good Friday and other religious holidays — such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — as school days.

The union claims the collective bargaining agreements of the teachers, teachers assistants, bus aides, and technical assistants allows employees to take up to two days of religious leave per school year.

The lawsuit filed in Providence Superior Court accuses the school district of violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act, and the Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act.

Cranston Teachers’ Alliance President Lizbeth Larkin released the following statement, as part of a news release:

“If the Cranston School Committee wants to open schools on important religious holidays, they must honor and respect their employees’ religious beliefs. I wish they had not opened school on the Jewish Holy days and Good Friday, but since they made that decision they should not be telling Christians of all denominations that Good Friday is not important enough to merit a religious leave day.”

The Cranston School Committee and Superintendent released a joint statement on Tuesday. Superintendent Judith Lundsten addressed the issue, saying in part:

It is unfortunate that the Cranston Teachers’ Alliance initiated a lawsuit regarding Good Friday.  Certainly, we always seek to respect our students’ and staff’s religious practices. From our perspective, this is about a calendar that was agreed upon and passed by the school committee nine months ago. Teachers, teacher assistants, technical assistants and bus aides have the provision in their contracts to request up to two religious observance days. The contractual language states, they may be granted the day off if their, “religious observance obligations require attendance at religious services held during the school day.

Janice Ruggierei, Chairperson of the Cranston School Committee added, “It has been a long, difficult winter for our parents, students and staff. We have already accumulated six additional days to our school year. We should be focusing on finishing the school year by meeting our students’ academic calendar requirements.”

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