You Be The Judge
Test your knowledge of the Five Freedoms and see how you match up to the courts...and fellow citizens.
In September, 2008, the leader of a city teacher union sent an email to all union members, advising them how to distribute campaign materials on behalf of the union’s preferred presidential candidate, Barack Obama.
In response, the city’s Department of Education sent a memo to principals directing them to enforce a longstanding regulation that requires that all school staff members show “complete neutrality” while on duty. The policy also prohibits teachers from using school property to promote a candidate.
The union filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that a policy banning political pins and signs in schools violates teachers’ First Amendment rights by blocking them from political expression.
Should teachers be allowed to advocate for political candidates in their classrooms?
A. YESThe First Amendment protects the rights of all citizens to express themselves on matters of conscience. These forms of political expression by teachers have the added benefit of letting them impart to their students the importance of democracy, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
B. NOThe First Amendment requires teachers, as public employees, to remain neutral about politics while on duty, in order to avoid any sense of pressure among students to echo the views of their teachers.
C. NOAlthough teachers maintain their First Amendment rights as private citizens, they surrender those rights at the schoolhouse gate as part of their duties as public employees.