Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Neshaminy calls for criminal investigation of threats, vandalism against teachers

Request based on teacher's allegations that union leaders and followers have used terror and fear" tactics against members who don't support the union.

Neshaminy calls for criminal investigation of threats, vandalism against teachers

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Neshaminy High School history teacher and assistant football coach David Ferrara accused union leaders of usin "terror and fear tactics in our workplace."

Allegations of threats and acts of vandalism aimed at Neshaminy teachers has prompted the district to request a criminal investigation by the Bucks County District Attorney.

In a letter to Superintendent Louis Muenker, board President Ritchie Webb wrote: “The Board has concluded that credible concerns exist for the safety of our staff” based on a Jan. 25 letter by high school history teacher and assistant football coach David Ferrara. “I have therefore requested that the Bucks County District Attorney conduct a criminal investigation of the vandalism done to Mr. Ferrara’s SUV as well as other allegations detailed in his letter.

“Since the safety of our employees is of paramount concern, I ask that all district staff provide any information requested by and cooperate fully with the authorities,” Webb wrote.

The request for an investigation also was based on a report of the incidents by Muenker and high school principal Rob McGee, Webb said in the letter.

District Attorney David Heckler could not be reached for comment.

Last week, Ferrara said that a tire on his SUV was slashed one day after he accused the teachers union’s leaders and a group of their followers for harassing and shunning members who did not support the union.  

Ferrara also said in a Facebook post that one member of the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers had received several written threats, including a death threat. Car vandalism had occurred at several schools, he wrote in the post.

After Ferrara’s tire was slashed, he sent his letter to the school district with permission to release it. Webb said at the time that Ferrara “was one of the teachers to come in when the teachers were picketing Back to School Night.”

There had been other vandalism incidents on school grounds, but the teachers declined to report them because they feared reprisals, Webb said.

The teachers have been working without a raise for more than 3½ years, under the terms of a contract that expired in 2008. The union’s frustration with the stalemated contract talks have led leaders to call two “work-to-contract” job actions, with members doing minimal work, and an eight school-day strike that ended Jan. 20. A second strike is possible in the spring.   

Ferrara, in his “letter of concern,” wrote:

In the past four years, the members of the NFT have been subjected to an endless barrage of tactics from our elected officials.  These elected officials have been surrounded by a small number of individuals who continually tell them what they want to hear.  This has led to the implementation of ‘terror and fear’ tactics in our workplace.  Individuals have had damage  done to their personal property, they have received written threats, and incidents of bullying during the school day.  There is a significant amount of shunning led by none other than the elected president of the NFT.  Those who surround the leadership want to instigate confrontations or shun individuals who question the decisions made by five individuals.  Most would agree that these terror and fear tactics have no place in an organization that prides itself with professionalism.”

The NFT does not comment on internal matters, a spokeman said last week.

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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