Judge sides with Tumwater School District, orders striking teachers back to work

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A judge sided with the Tumwater School District Wednesday morning, and ordered teachers to end their strike and return to work.

But bargaining between both sides will continue today, and there's no timetable yet on when school will start.

The school district filed a temporary injunction against the Tumwater Education Association last week, five days after teachers voted to strike over salaries.

The Thurston County superior court judge said the teachers' strike and the delayed start of school has caused "sufficient harm" to the district and the students it serves, particularly special-needs students.

Teachers who lined up outside the courthouse today said the fight is not over, and some say they are willing to face whatever sanctions could come from disregarding the judge's order.

It's unclear whether teachers in Tumwater would be sanctioned for not returning to school. Tacoma teachers went through the same thing in 2011, when a judge ordered them to end their strike and get back to work. Teachers ignored the judge's ruling and were not fined, because state law does not outline penalties for teacher strikes, even though it's illegal for public school employees to go on strike.

Meanwhile, district officials say they have no plans of docking the teachers' pay, and they are in talks with the teachers union over when school will start.

The Tumwater Education Association is meeting today to determine its next move.

"We expect to communicate with them following their meeting as to their plans to abide by (or not) the injunction," the school district said.  "In the meantime, bargaining continues today and we are hopeful to reach an agreement soon."