Schenectady

Editorial: Keep political activity out of schools

Teachers shouldn't be using school as platform for political activity
A portion of the union-generated flier.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A portion of the union-generated flier.

The sole job of public school teachers is to teach children.

Teachers’ interaction with parents of those children should be exclusively confined to furthering the child’s education, by providing parents with information about the student’s progress and with ideas for improving the child’s opportunity to learn.

There is no place for politics in that relationship.

Recently, a first-grade teacher at Paige Elementary School in Schenectady placed a union-generated flier in at least one student’s classroom mailbox. The flier called for people to contact their federal representatives and urge them to oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination as U.S. education secretary.

From what we can tell, there was no deliberate attempt to send the flier home with the student. The teacher apparently didn’t read the flier carefully before she placed it in the mailboxes of several students, and at least one student wound up taking it home, where a parent rightly objected.

We’ll accept that this was a simple mistake, and we’re pleased that the school, according to the parent who raised the issue, has taken steps to ensure that future notices intended for students to take home will be approved by the school before being distributed to teachers.

But what wasn’t an innocent mistake was the creation of the flier and the Schenectady teachers’ union’s stated intent to have teachers directly approach parents while they were dropping off their kids before school or picking them up after to campaign against DeVos’s nomination.

Teachers shouldn’t be using the school as a platform for their political activity. It doesn’t matter if it’s before school, after school or if they’re only conversing with parents or passing out a flier. A parent visiting a school shouldn’t fear being cornered by their kid’s teacher to hear a political speech.

If there’s a conversation to take place between the teacher and the parent, it should be about something related to the child, and only that.

We also object to the not-so subtle politicking done by teachers in wearing red shirts during a recent school day to protest the nomination.

Do you think that just because they weren’t passing out fliers directly to students and weren’t actively lobbying parents that they weren’t sending a strong political message anyway? Otherwise, why coordinate outfits at all? Do you think the kids didn’t wonder why their teachers were wearing the same color shirt that day? Do you think they didn’t tell their parents about it?

Teachers certainly have every right to exercise their First Amendment rights. But they have no business exploiting their opportunity to interact with parents and students to do it.

If you want to march against a presidential nominee or in favor of more school funding, do it on your own time. Take a vacation day and join your fellow union members at the state capitol for a demonstration. Or make your concerns known to the media, where parents can learn how teachers feel that way.

The school should be a sanctuary, free from the political opinions of the teachers and their unions.

Accident or not, school administrators around the region must make sure this type of activity isn’t allowed to happen again.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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