Teacher contract debate heats up as kids take sides

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Mon, February 3 2014 at 6:11 PM, Updated: Fri, February 7 2014 at 4:48 PM

Medford, Ore. -- Emotions are running high in the Medford School District on both sides of the disagreement over teacher contracts.

The heated debate has spilled out of the negotiation room and into kids' lives. Now, many children are making their voices heard and taking sides.

On Monday afternoon at Hoover Elementary School in Medford, a handful of parents and students held signs in support of teachers.

"The sign says that if teachers strike that my child will strike so I'm planning to keep my child at home if it does go to strike," said Medford mom Ashley Snowden as she described the sign she was holding.

Kids voicing their opinions

"I'm most definitely taking the teachers side because I think the teachers are definitely right," said Hannah Macleod, a student in the Medford School District.

"I think they shouldn't strike," said another student we spoke with.    

Kids are getting pulled into the heated debate over teachers contracts that have spanned about a year.

How the debate is affecting kids

Psychologist Dr. Douglas Col said exposure to a potential strike means kids are getting a realistic view of the world around them.

"They're getting to in a funny way to participate in the real life situation we're in right now ... kids can see that they live in a real life system that has its ups and downs," said Col.

He said it's unlikely the debate between teachers and the district will traumatize kids in the long run but what could cause damage are negative emotions that pit student against student. It's something one school board member's son said he's already experienced.

"Ganging up on me, kids a lot, kids of teachers more specifically," began Eric Wallan, a school board member's son.

"Saying that it's our family's fault," he continued in an interview with NBC 5 News in January.

With a potential strike just days away, the rhetoric keeps getting more heated.

According to Dr. Douglas Col, the more polarizing the fight gets the worse it becomes for everyone involved since a resolution is somewhere in the middle.

Potential strike is days away

The Medford Education Association said the union will strike on Thursday if no agreement is reached by then.

The district said in a statement this weekend that they will bring a new contract proposal to the table on Tuesday as it works to avert a teacher strike. Both sides plan to meet again Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock.   

The Medford School District says if a strike does happen, schools will be closed Thursday through next Monday.

Sticking points on pension, pay and contract wording remain.

Visit the following websites for more details on contract negotiations:

http://www.iteachmedford.org/

http://www.medford.k12.or.us/

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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