October 11, 2002 at 9:30 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 4:27 AM
MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) - Some substitute teachers in the Maple Heights School District will not tell students their names to avoid problems associated with crossing the picket lines of striking teachers.
The district has told them they do not have to provide their real identities, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Friday, saying an invented name, like "Mr. Staff," works just fine.
"Why wouldn't that be acceptable?" Superintendent Henry Rish said, adding that anonymity protects the substitutes from harassment.
He said the teachers union has badgered substitutes with phone calls and threatened to circulate their names to "blacklist" them from other jobs.
Teachers union President Toni Bednarik denied that striking teachers make harassing calls, even though the union posts many substitutes' names on its Web site.
"We don't have their phone numbers," she said.
She said withholding names can create an "atmosphere of distrust."
"If they can't tell you their name, how can you trust what they're doing?" she asked.
Teachers have been striking in the suburban Cleveland district since Sept. 4. The Ohio Department of Education ruled last week that the substitutes are meeting state standards for instruction.
High school sophomore Danielle Clark knows substitute math teacher Richard Labas' name, but only because she learned it through disciplinary hearings after she held up a "Scabs Go Home" sign in class.
"He wouldn't tell us his name," Clark said. "Now he's telling us a different name every day. Why are you covering up your name? There must be something wrong."
The United States and Ohio Departments of Education, the national Parent-Teacher Association and the Ohio School Boards Association have no policies governing names given to students, though spokesmen for the agencies said the issue is an unusual one.
"We were told it was optional whether we wanted to give out our names or not," Labas told the newspaper.
School board President Sandy Klimkowski, who had teachers picket outside her home, said that teachers withholding names makes sense.
"If they are Mr. John or Mr. Paul, I don't see a problem," she said.
Picketing teachers did harass substitutes as they crossed the lines at the strike's start. But a judge restricted the pickets and Maple Heights Police Chief Richard Maracz said he has received only minor complaints since then.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)