Dear We Are Teachers,
My district is asking teachers to refrain from posting “anything political” on their personal social media accounts. They clarified by saying this includes any content related to political news, politicians, social justice, or issues related to race, sexuality, gender, or ethnicity. They also said to not post any pictures featuring at bars, drag shows, pride-related events, political rallies, or other “controversial locations.” A public school district can’t fire us for violating a free speech restriction, can they?
—CENSORED IN SEattle
(I just watched Fargo for the first time this week.)
Here’s the thing. There have always been limits to the freedom of speech. The First Amendment guarantees us some freedom of speech and expression, but we are not free from the consequences of what we say.
I don’t think any of us would actually want unlimited free speech, by the way. Defamation, inciting panic (the famous shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater example), harassment—would we want these to go unaddressed?
Check out the ACLU’s rundown of free speech rights for public school teachers. It’s important to know for others reading that this is for Washington state, but most of the document concerns federal law and judiciary that would apply to any state. Here are the three big takeaways:
- The law is continuing to evolve on this issue.
- Your speech outside of school that is not related to work and is on a topic of public importance is protected by the First Amendment. However, if school officials can show that your speech could adversely affect school functions or your effectiveness as a teacher, the First Amendment may not protect you.
- Your school can discipline you for speech made on social media, even on a private account.
Here’s an example of protected and not protected political posting. A teacher posting a selfie of their voting sticker with the caption “Proud to have voted for [candidate]!” on Facebook is making a comment on a topic of public importance, and that speech should be protected. But a teacher posting, “All [members of political party] are moronic, mouth-breathing dumpster goblins” is making a statement that could arguably impact their effectiveness dealing with students and families. That speech would likely not be protected.
I think teachers in your district should definitely seek the advice of a union rep and ask a ton of questions about this new policy, including its language (e.g. “Who defines ‘controversial’?” “Is a baby shower an event related to gender?”) and consequences. But be careful of your next moves, especially considering where you teach. Lately our Supreme Court seems to have done away with their nonpartisan job requirements. I don’t trust them or many of their lower courts to uphold the law over their personal and religious beliefs.
Dear We Are Teachers,
I have a fifth grade student who has a really hard time with redirection. Yesterday, when I told her that she had reached the end of her warnings and was close to getting a lunch detention, she pointed to her smart watch and said, “My mom said I should record you if you got like this.” I was so caught off-guard I didn’t know what to do. So.. what do I do?! Smart watches are allowed on our campus, by the way.
—On ONE HAND, I SEE HER POINT
First, go to your administrator and let them know about this incident. Depending on the laws in your state, this could be permitted, but I can’t imagine a district saying, “Yep! We’re cool with students recording teachers and distributing that material as they please.” Plus, it sounds like you need some administrative support in handling this student.
If your school and state continue to allow the recording of teachers (one-way consent), you still have the power to control one aspect: yourself. Stay calm. Remind your student of the expectations. Redirect respectfully. If you refuse to bite, the teacher bait won’t go anywhere.
Then find a new school with a better technology policy.
On Saturday, I’m taking a mandatory certification test—with my own money—so that I am qualified to change diapers for eight year-olds. No, this is not for special education services or students with mental or physical disabilities. This is for the children of parents who think that “potty training before a child is ready is abuse.” I took that quote from the PowerPoint presentation of a group of moms “advocating” for their children, BTW. Am I losing it for being horrified? Am I in the wrong here?
—Not a diaper genie
You are not alone! I had been blissfully unaware of this ever-increasing reality for elementary teachers until last month. The teachers in this article share how frustrating and demoralizing it is to take on yet another parental responsibility.
Unfortunately, the only way forward is your school or district changing (or enforcing) enrollment requirements.
Fortunately, there is a lightning-fast way to get schools to change policies.
Angry parents going to the school board.
Talk to your PTA or neighborhood parent group about how you changing diapers is bad for all kids. It regularly interrupts and delays instruction. It diverts your attention from potential safety and classroom management issues (especially since I imagine you have to do this in a private location away from the classroom). When parents hear that other parents’ decisions are putting their child at a disadvantage, you’ll start to see change.
Do you have a burning question? Email us at email@example.com.
Dear We Are Teachers,
After a big storm in June, an electrical outage and roof leak left four classrooms full of black mold. We were notified back in June and were assured that the rooms would be cleaned before we returned, but it looks like there was just a surface-level scrubbing at best. There are still spots on walls, floors, and desks, but our administration insists that it’s been “inspected by specialists.” I don’t even want to be there for in-service, let alone a school year. What should I do?
—MY PRINCIPAL IS A FUNGI WITH QUESTIONABLE MORELS