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Newton parent files lawsuit against NTA amid prolonged strike

Nell Ranalli
Union members gather outside the Education Center in protest for a fair contract Wednesday, Jan. 31.

As the Newton Teachers Association (NTA) strike continues and students have gone nine school days without receiving teacher instruction, a Newton parent filed a lawsuit Monday, Jan. 29 against the NTA and Mike Zilles, NTA President. 

Lital Asher-Dotan, a parent of three children who attend Newton Public Schools (NPS), filed the lawsuit on the basis that her children’s right to receive a public education has been infringed upon during the strike. She was joined in her lawsuit by 25 other NPS families who wrote letters addressing the court judge.

“Students have a constitutional right to an adequate education in the public schools in their communities,” the lawsuit stated, adding that the strike has led to “severely detrimental effects” to the plaintiff’s children’s “education, extracurricular activities, and overall well-being.” 

Asher-Dotan is the mother of three NPS students, two of whom attend South and one who attends Oak Hill Middle School. One of Asher-Dotan’s children requires IEP support. 

“I’d like to represent the parents and children of this town who are suffering,” said Asher-Dotan. “Getting into a second week of a strike, I have to say that I felt enough is enough. Nobody is talking about the 12,000 students in Newton Public Schools.” 

In her lawsuit, Asher-Dotan pointed out various ways in which her children have been negatively affected by the strike, which include loss of special support for students in IEPs, the social and emotional toll of not being able to attend school extracurriculars, loss of academic progress which could jeopardize their success in college admissions, and increased time on social media while staying at home. 

“I’m not an expert. I’m just a mom. I just wish there would have been a compromise on both sides without hurting the academic and social-emotional situation of our children. Any outcome that would have kept our kids away from this debate, other than keeping them at home, would have been ideal,” said Asher-Dotan. “I felt somebody needed to do something and get our voice heard.” 

According to Asher-Dotan, she supports teachers, but not the strike. 

“I don’t want to appear as if we’re not supporting the teachers because we are. We love our teachers, and we want the teachers to feel supported,” said Dotan.  “Legal moves have to be taken because the law is being broken,” she added. 

Asher-Dotan said that beyond the interests of her own family, she hopes to represent the impact the strike has had on the diverse student population in Newton who attends NPS schools, which includes students from under-privileged communities, students with special needs, seniors who are unable to send transcripts to colleges, and young children who require babysitting.  

“I wanted the judge to be aware of the plethora of and the different circumstances of each and every family,” said Asher-Dotan. “This is such a diverse population in Newton, and I felt like having a variety of letters representing those different stories will showcase how each and every family in our community suffers from this strike.”

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