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Nevada judge rules teachers union must end sick strike

A Nevada judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the continuation of what he said was a teachers’ strike after the Clark County school district said eight schools had to be closed in seven days due to sick teachers .

“What is happening here is very clearly a strike that must be prohibited,” Judge Crystal Eller of Nevada said during a hearing Wednesday.

She ruled it was “absurd” to assume it was not a strike and made her decision based on an “overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence,” Eller said. She asked district attorneys to draft a new injunction ending the strike, which she must sign.

The Clark County School District and a teachers union appeared in court Wednesday after the district asked a judge for a temporary restraining order to stop an alleged illness that caused an increase in staff absences .

The hearing comes as the district and union are locked in a contract dispute.

The Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas, claims that through a “targeted and coordinated ongoing strike,” licensed educators with the Clark County Education Association “forced the closure of three Clark County schools and have seriously disrupted the operations of two others” between September 1 and 8, according to court documents shared by the Nevada Independent.

The Clark County Education Association represents more than 18,000 educators in the Clark County School District, the fifth largest in the nation.

Nevada law prohibits strikes by public employees. The district said the level of absenteeism at the affected schools is “unprecedented.”

The district said mass absences affected one school per day for most of the week, before prompting the closure of two schools on September 8. Four more schools closed Tuesday, followed by another on Wednesday, according to Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV.

“It defies logic to suggest that these mass absences constitute anything other than the type of concerted pretext absences that (Nevada law) clearly defines as a strike,” the district said in court documents.

“The Legislature prohibited this 50 years ago and the defendants in this case clearly assisted their members in carrying out this strike,” district attorneys said during the hearing Wednesday.

Clark County School District Administration Building in Las Vegas, May 23, 2017.

Las Vegas Review-Journal/TNS via Getty Images

The district is asking the court to intervene and end the alleged strike, saying the situation will only continue, according to court documents.

“This strike is the culmination of Defendants’ months-long campaign to pressure the district into more favorable bargaining terms by credibly threatening that there would be no school without contract,” the district said in court documents.

In court, a lawyer for the union argued there was no evidence the union coordinated an effort to have teachers call in sick illegitimately.

“I don’t disagree with the fact that something is happening in the world,” I don’t disagree with the fact that my clients bear responsibility for it, the union lawyer said.

The union has been rallying around contract demands and to ensure students have a certified teacher in every classroom, according to social media posts.

The union said it had no knowledge of last week’s absences and denied they were in any way associated with the union’s actions in a statement to the Nevada Independent.

The union did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

ABC News

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