October 15, 2008
It's no military step routine for sure, but the recent federal suit filed by the New York City United Federation of Teachers is certainly out of step. At issue is a city policy that makes political buttons and signs verboten in schools. On September 23, UFT president Randi Weingarten sent an email to union leaders detailing how to distribute campaign materials for AFT- (and UFT-) endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama. Chancellor Joel Klein fired back with a strict reminder that while "on duty or in contact with students, all school personnel shall maintain a posture of complete neutrality." No amicable solution, here. The union sued, arguing that this is an infringement of teachers' First Amendment rights to free speech--and, as Weingarten alleged, they'd know, since "teachers, maybe more than others, understand how important democracy is and how important the Constitution is, especially the Bill of Rights." Or not. When in school, teachers are public employees paid with public dollars, not private citizens minding their own business. It's bizarre that the UFT doesn't see the distinction since, according to Weingarten herself, "teachers understand they cannot proselytize their personal beliefs and they also understand the importance of showing students the value of civic participation." Hmm. And lapel-pasted political beliefs are not proselytizing how?
"Teachers Sue Over Right to Politic," By Jennifer Medina, New York Times, October 11, 2008.