Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Teacher Free Speech

This just isn't right.

SOQUEL -- Teachers at Soquel High School have agreed not to wear "Educators for Obama" buttons in the classroom after a parent complained that educators were attempting to politically influence his daughter and other students...

"It doesn't matter who they are supporting," Hadley said Tuesday. "Teachers lose their free-speech rights when they go into a classroom. They are allowed to stick to the curriculum, not political views."


I wasn't aware that the 1st Amendment stopped at the schoolhouse door. Turns out there's some wiggle room here.

The law disagrees with Hadley, but does allow districts to set limits on the political activities of teachers during the school day...

Legal decisions in California allow educators to wear political buttons at work except during classroom instruction, unless the matter has a direct bearing on an education issue, such as a proposed school bond or contract matter.

Now we get to argue what "is" is. I wear a red, white, and blue elephant pin given to me by a former student. Is that a "political button"? And if my 1st Amendment freedom of expression can be limited in this way at school, are we also going to forbid the wearing of Stars of David or of crosses? This is obviously not a trivial question.

19 comments:

Rhymes With Right said...

I came to a somewhat different conclusion when I blogged on this story -- but also acknowledge your issue as well.

http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu/archives/274664.php

Hall Monitor said...

This story made http://detentionslip.org ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

M.A. said...

As long as teachers present a "balanced" curriculum, then I really don't care if they where the buttons.

My fear is that teachers who go to work wearing Educators for Obama buttons (probably provided by the teachers' union, unfortunately) would not be capable of presenting truthful accounts of both Party's candidates and/or positions to the students.

I've always thought that we need to teach kids HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Donalbain said...

I think that this is pretty simple. Teachers should not be advocating any political position in the classroom.

Darren said...

What a shock--we disagree.

neko said...

I think I will have to agree with Donalbain on this one.

Mr. W said...

I have a "Vote Smart: Republican" sign in my class. My wife found it at a elementary school supply store and it has a cartoon drawing of an elephant on it. It's posted in the front of my room.

Funny thing is that my students still ask me if I am a Republican :-)

I actually tell them that I will probably be their first & last Republican teacher they will ever have in all of their education.

Robert said...

I don't think this is really a free speech issue. In the original article, it says that the principal *asked* the teachers not to wear the buttons and that the teachers then *agreed* not to wear them. The teachers were not ordered or compelled to stop wearing them (unless there's more to the story than the paper is reporting). It sounds like it was a mutual agreement to end speech rather than a suppression of speech.

By the way, did you see who gave the buttons to the teachers in the first place?

Darren said...

Oh yes, I saw.

rightwingprof said...

You'll find that for the most part, conservative university faculty know each other, but all keep a very low profile. I wore an American Flag on my lapel. That's it. I did have an RNC mousepad in my office, but I'm a lefty, so students would have had to have stood on tiptoe and peered over the monitor to see it.

Steve K. USMA '85 said...

I have a problem with the fact that the student has to be in the classroom by law. If a teacher is wearing a button or worse, espousing the benefits of one party/candidate over another; you are subjecting a citizen to political campaigning with no right to refuse to listen. I can turn the channel on an ad. I can avoid a political rally. I can leave an office conversation that turns political. My student is not allowed to leave the classroom. Subjecting a person to mandatory political campaigning is not free speech. We are talking more on the order of George Orwell's 1984.

Donalbain said...

Steve: That is the exact reasoning that I follow. A child has no choice in the matter, they are forced to be in the classroom. As such, they are a captive audience. We do not have the right to use such a captive audience to further our own agendas. Just like I would frown upon a teacher saying "Jesus is Lord" in his classroom, so I would frown on a teacher saying "Palin should not be VP". And wearing a pin comes in that category. The "Vote Smart: Vote Republican" sticker (unless part of a general display of political ephemera) would be completely out of line in my opinion.

Darren said...

Let's extend this discussion, in which I'm obviously of the minority opinion here, to more of the 1st Amendment. I know a school counselor who wears a Star of David necklace to work each day, and given that she looks after several hundred students, no doubt has some who are "not positively predisposed" to seeing a Star of David. Keep the 1st Amendment in mind here. Should she be compelled not to wear her necklace at work?

nebraska girl said...

I'm not allowed to campaign at work. This includes shirts, buttons, signs, etc. I work for the federal government. I guess the school can make that decision too.

Ellen K said...

It may actually cause a backlash. Many parents hold teachers in low esteem. So if they support a candidate, parents could turn contrarian and reject that candidate. One very liberal teacher of my acquaintance was open and virulent in her political views. So much so that parents and students complained about her bias in the classroom. Some of my students may suspect my views, but I never use my position to force the issue. That's not my job.

Stopped Clock said...

The star of David is not in the same category as a political lapel pin. Being Jewish isnt a political statement; being a Democrat is. If someone banned Jews from wearing Jewish jewelry for fear of offending people who hate the Jews, I would ask them if they would also be okay with banning blacks from the school in order to not offend those who hate blacks.

I still agree (oh wait, this is my first post, oops) I still agree that wearing political buttons in a classroom is going too far. Teachers are intimdiating, even to teenagers. Heck, even to college students. One of my friends is an atheist who went to a public school and ended up with a Christian fundamentalist for an advisor. He did not like talking to her at all because he knew that she knew he was an atheist and worried that she thought ill of him for that reason.

Robert said...

"I did have an RNC mousepad in my office, but I'm a lefty, so students would have had to have stood on tiptoe and peered over the monitor to see it."

Rightwingprof is a leftie. Heh.

Darren said...

I caught that too, Robert. Made me laugh.

Stopped clock: both the Star of David and a political pin are covered by the 1st Amendment as well as Tinker v. Des Moines.

Anonymous said...

Check out the book titled "The Supreme Court and Whistleblowers: Teachers and Other Public Employees" available on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Nobles.