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Education

San Antonio Teacher Union Accuses Principal Of Retaliation

Burbank teacher Luke Amphlett, right, joined students in a protest outside a board meeting in February 2020. The Alliance says Amphlett was placed on leave after expressing concerns about Burbank's reopening plan.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Burbank teacher Luke Amphlett, right, joined students in a protest outside a board meeting in February 2020. The Alliance says Amphlett was placed on leave after expressing concerns about Burbank's reopening plan.
Updated: September 29, 2020 at 9:51 AM CDT
Luke Amphlett's suspension was lifted after about a week. He returned to work September 4.

The union that represents teachers and staff at the San Antonio Independent School District has filed a grievance against the principal of Burbank High School.

It alleges that the principal, Irene Talamantes, placed one of its members on leave in retaliation for expressing concerns about the school’s reopening plans.According to the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, Burbank’s union representative, Luke Amphlett, was called into a meeting on Monday and questioned about union activities before he was placed on paid administrative leave.

Alliance representative Diana De Leon, who attended the meeting with Amphlett, described his suspension as an attempt to “quiet or muzzle our members in speaking with regard to the campus reopening.”

“It’s a very slippery slope,” De Leon said. “Our members have the right to associate with the union under the First Amendment.”

Texas AFT General Counsel Martha Owen, who helped the Alliance file the grievance, called the suspension “a clear case of attempted union busting.”

San Antonio ISD officials declined to comment about the specifics of Amphlett’s employment status because it is a personnel matter.

In a statement, district officials said they “respect the right for our employees to express their concerns,” and that Talamantes is planning a meeting to address remaining safety concerns at Burbank.

SAISD has issued a 55 page safety plan and will be bringing students back to campus in phases, starting Tuesday with 10% of students.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has said the coronavirus outbreak is contained enough to safely bring back small groups of students, if safety protocols are followed.

But De Leon said teachers at several campuses, including Burbank, have building-specific questions that still need answers surrounding protocol and procedure.

“One example that came from Burbank was, ‘Teachers will be responsible for temperature checks for students.’ There’s more than one entry point for kids to come in,” De Leon said. “How are they all going to cover that ground?”

A letter that Burbank teachers sent to the principal also asked whether there would be enough power strips for student laptops and what the protocol would be if the school’s aging HVAC system breaks down.

According to the grievance, Burbank administrators accused Amphlett of making other teachers uncomfortable by encouraging them to tell administrators their concerns about the school’s reopening plan.

“When you are acting as a union member and working with educators, faculty and staff on your own personal time… that has no bearing on the district,” De Leon said. “And in this case, because Mr. Amphlett attended and invited folks to (attend a Zoom meeting) as a union steward for his campus, we heavily disagree with the district trying to investigate those particular meetings.”

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter at @cmpcamille.

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