LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Clark County District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction during a Wednesday court hearing stating there was an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence of a strike by teachers who are represented by Clark County Education Association.

Clark County School District filed for an injunction to stop teachers from conducting “rolling sickouts” that have impacted several schools. The union, which represents around 18,000 licensed educators, said it was not involved in the actions of the teachers.

“What’s happening here is clearly a strike,” Judge Crystal Eller said which violates state law. She added she was sympathetic to the teachers but the public service they perform is too important and families and children are “counting on you.”

Attorneys representing CCSD and CCEA appear in Clark County District Court on Sept. 13, 2023. (KLAS)

Since Sept. 1, teacher shortages at campuses have either “severely disrupted” or forced the closure of schools. The district announced that 10 schools have had a large number of teacher absences, with at least eight schools closing due to staff calling out sick. Classes were canceled Wednesday morning at Newton Elementary School in Henderson due to teacher absences. This came hours before the court hearing.

In court, CCSD attorney Ethan Thomas argued that the mass absences were coordinated and defined as a strike which is in violation of state law. He said the district had evidence including a TikTok video from a union member and an email from a teacher that showed the sick calls were coordinated.

“I will admit they have been as clever as they can possibly be in trying to hide the fact that there has been a clear plan in place to strike.”

CCEA’s attorney argued that the union should not bear responsibility for the video and email because in his opinion it’s questionable whether the email or video are even admissible as evidence.

“The way you address your concerns is at the bargaining table,” Judge Eller said. She also added if the union or an employee violates the order, the court can punish the union with up to a $50,000 fine each day the violation continues. Teachers can be fined $1,000 for each day.

The ongoing months-long contract battle over teachers’ pay has the district and the union at a stalemate. CCSD said arbitration would be the only way to resolve the issue.

“Thankfully, the court found that a strike has occurred,” the school district said in a statement shortly after Judge Eller’s decision. “Because of the evidence of coordinated work stoppages by CCEA and its members, the court imposed a preliminary injunction to prevent any ongoing disruptions to the school district’s operations. This action protects the children of the Clark County School District so they can receive the education they are entitled to.”

“With CCSD declaring an impasse in negotiations with CCEA yesterday, the arbitration process will proceed according to Nevada law,” the statement concluded. “In the meantime, educators will continue under the current negotiated contract and be compensated accordingly until a new agreement is reached.”

This is the second time both sides faced off in court. The previous court hearing was prior to the start of school and a judge would not issue an injunction to prevent a teacher strike because — at the time — there was no evidence supporting that would happen.

In the most recent bargaining session between CCSD and CCEA, which was on Sept. 12, the district offered a 9% increase in the first year and $10,000 in incentives for Tier 1 special education and “hard-to-fill” positions in addition to “correcting the inequities in the salary schedule for thousands of teachers.”

The union is standing its ground on wanting a 10 percent raise the first year for educators and an 8 percent raise the second year. CCEA released a statement that stated teachers have not received a cost of living raise in two years “despite 8 percent inflation in one year alone.”

Clark County Educators Association executive director John Vellardita said he will appeal a judge’s decision Wednesday to issue a preliminary injunction against its members striking.

“We disagree with the judge,” Vellardita said. “The judge is totally wrong.”

He said he would take the case to the state’s highest court.

“We’re going to appeal this before the Supreme Court,” he told the 8 News Now Investigators. “We disagree with the court’s decision. I mean, obviously, we’re going to respect it but we’re racing to the supremes now.”