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Teachers In Dedham Approve Strike; School Canceled Friday

DEDHAM (CBS) – Dedham Public Schools will be closed Friday after teachers approved a strike. The vote Thursday afternoon was 258-2.

Rachel Dudley and Tim Dwyer are leaders of the Dedham Education Association. They say one of the main sticking points of a new contract for teachers is protection from sexual harassment.

"To protect our members from something that unfortunately has become very commonplace and has been a big issue over the last couple of years," Dudley said.

"There is a need for it, there has been problems in at least two of the schools," Dwyer said.

Dedham teachers have been without a contract for over a year. And while many teachers say they do not want to strike, they say the school committee has dug in.

Dedham teachers
Signs for Dedham teacher's strike (WBZ-TV)

"It's something that should be settled," Dwyer said. "Our demands are perfectly reasonable."

The teachers will go on strike starting Friday morning.

Dedham Public Schools says the vote to strike comes just weeks before both sides are scheduled to meet with an independent arbitrator. Superintendent Michael Welch said, "As a district, we are saddened that our educators have chosen to consider this drastic and harmful action."

Julie McKenna is one of the many parents in Dedham now stuck finding something for their kids to do Friday.

"They're excited for a day off, but we're both hoping that things resolve sooner than later," McKenna said. "I support the teachers 100 percent, but I also love Dedham and I support the town. I want what's best for our children, for our teachers and for our town."

The last teacher strike in Massachusetts was in 2007. In Quincy, teachers were on the picket line for 5 days. At one point, a judge ordered them back to work, because it's actually against the law for teachers to strike. When the Quincy teachers refused to go back to work, that union was fined daily.

"Yes it is illegal," Rachel Dudley said. "It is not criminal, it is illegal and I think that this really shows he frustration of our members."

Late Thursday night, the superintendent and school committee held a news conference saying the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations ruled the strike is illegal and the teachers should return to work.

"I want to first say this is a very sad time for our community," Welch said.

The superintendent says they're ready to return to negotiations.

"Our very first priority is to get our students back in school," Welch said. "We are so very proud of our school district and the hardworking men and women who work together every day to educate our children."

The teachers will be picketing outside the high school starting at 6:30 Friday morning, then at the middle school and at the elementary schools as well.

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