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  #11  
Old 04-27-2012, 11:32 PM
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There were some districts that had clauses in contracts prohibiting political activity back when I started teaching.
There are some gray areas where teachers need to check their speech. Parents, and busybodies sometimes are looking for something to b---- about. My feeling is not to give them any ammunition.
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  #12  
Old 04-28-2012, 12:04 AM
3Sons 3Sons is offline
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Originally Posted by KateL View Post
I don't see school rules as being that different from rules in other places in society. Most workplaces have a dress code, a tardy policy, a sexual harassment policy, and an unwritten code of conduct for things like how to speak to the boss. These aren't laws (with the exception of the sexual harassment one), but workers are expected to abide by them. I don't see why we shouldn't expect the same of our students.

Even businesses have rules. "No shirt, no shoes, no service" comes to mind. Society has to have these rules to keep things polite and to avoid trampling other people's rights.
I'm sorry, this analogy is pretty off-base except in the most general of ways.

There are different justifications for rules. Workplaces that have dress codes, tardy policies, etc. can expect obedience to these rules because otherwise they can fire the employee. In fact, they cannot enforce these things through the court system or the police.

Similarly, the "no shirt, no service" rules aren't enforced through legislation (usually, actually in some places there may be health code laws), but by the refusal of service and the fact that customers are considered licensees (i.e., they're legally allowed on the business property, but with limited rights to stay. Violate those conditions, and they become trespassers).

Students aren't under either of these justifications, and teachers and administrators should remain well aware of this (though in practice I don't think they do). What does allow many of the rules is the mandate of the educational institution to teach: if a certain behavior or speech causes academic disruption, the school may restrict it. It's highly questionable whether schools should have any say over things like hair color/style, makeup, messages on shirts, or proselytization. That it might possibly create some disruption isn't a good enough justification, there needs to be a showing that it would indeed actually cause disruption.

Schools are given pretty wide latitude over discipline, and I think sometimes this gives admins and teachers the idea they can simply do anything. It's not just free speech they're limiting -- schools step over all sorts of rights we have in general society (often legally doing so, but sometimes not). For example, students accused of wrongdoing do not get the right of counsel, freedom from search, a jury, the right to confront their accusers, freedom from double-jeopardy or double-punishment, right of appeal, or freedom of association. I'm not suggesting those things should be implemented, as there are fairly good reasons to limit those rights and the overhead of trying to maintain a full justice system just to prevent kids from getting detention unfairly would be prohibitively expensive. What I am saying, though, is this: teachers work in an environment that is completely unlike US society in many important respects, and a teacher who doesn't pay attention to US society runs the danger of violating the letter or spirit of US law when operating within the confines of the school.

This is also the reason I absolutely despise the fairly commonly used, "Classroom Bill of Rights" lesson. The class bill of rights is so unlike the actual bill of rights, not just in subject matter but also purpose, that it does more harm than good in fostering any understanding.

As for teachers themselves, they have some limits as agents of government. Specifically, they cannot advocate a particular religion or lack of religion (there is actually a little leeway here even within legal bounds, and of course teachers step well over this line without punishment all the time). Though I don't think other opinions are technically illegal (I think, for example, a teacher could tell the students who they're voting for), sharing some of those other opinions probably isn't a great idea and may even be more likely to result in backlash than opinions on religion.

Of course, private schools are exempt from a lot of this.

And to Dave's point, a lot of schools create additional restrictions through contract.
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  #13  
Old 04-28-2012, 12:47 AM
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Umm... I said that they aren't laws. I'm not sure what your post has to do with me.
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  #14  
Old 04-28-2012, 04:15 AM
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Umm... I said that they aren't laws. I'm not sure what your post has to do with me.
Yes, you did, and that's exactly correct: they're not laws.

But, you said school rules aren't "that different from rules in other places in society." And my point is that the basis for school rules is completely different from those other rules. Because of that difference in basis, there is a difference in the types of rules business can adopt as opposed to schools. An employer, for example, could make a rule saying "No democrats will be hired" or "Anyone who visits McDonald's, even in their off time, will be fired". A business can make a rule saying, "If you're not good-looking enough, you cannot come in to our establishment".

I hope that clarifies things. If my initial statement, combined with a very lengthy post after that, gives the impression that I was deeply disturbed or angry with your post, let me assure you that isn't the case
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  #15  
Old 04-28-2012, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Irishdave View Post
Recently we had a thread closed before the topic of free speech could be addressed.
Schools have rules that in "real" life cannot be enforced because they are not law.

The girl with the rebel flag dress, a student making statements on Facebook, a boy running for prom queen, a student witnessing their faith to another student, .......
A Teacher showing favoritism of a political candidate, teachers being seen at political rallies, a teacher of other school employee who moonlights in a bar or is a former adult film actor .......

Many of these touch the issue of free speech.
Just how much free speech do students and teachers have?

Now I am not backing any of the offensive behaviors or statements. I am just questioning whether the schools have done their homework in trying to prevent the behaviors in a manor that doesn't infringe on free speech?
Do teachers and students hang up their free speech rights at the school's front door?
I don't know if you chose this wording on purpose but the statement “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” is from Tinker v. Des Moines, 1968, where students were supported in their decision to wear armbands to protest the vietnam war. The ruling decided that as long as the action does not cause major disruption to the school day, it is legal.

In another case, Bethel v. Fraser, a students gave a very lewd election speech and was suspended. This was upheld because the speech was intentionally vulgar.

So basically the test for student speech and expression is that if it doesn't cause a major disruption and it isn't vulgar, than it is allowed.


There are fewer guidelines for teachers. It probably depends more on your individual contract and your school's view of academic freedom.

Personally, while I do not push my political beliefs on my students, I will answer a direct question if asked. I don't think politics should be a taboo topic, and I think students should be encouraged to discuss it openly with other adults. So if they directly asked me what political party I was affiliated with or who I voted for, I would tell them.
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  #16  
Old 04-28-2012, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by lucybelle View Post
I read this article yesterday that I think addresses some of the things you talk about. Of course you "can" say whatever you want. We have the freedom of speech here. But if it hurts someone else, why do it?
The "article" sounds more like a blog to me, unless interlaced profanity has become an acceptable standard in journalism.

In addition, the perspective offered seems very shortsighted since the author seems to think whites are the only ones who practice racism. It is not entirely his/her fault, of course. Because of our history - and the stereotypes it created - society in general seems to believe whites are the only ones who feel and express racism. That simply isn't the case. Hatred or intolerance of other races crosses all ethnic boundaries.

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Originally Posted by lucybelle View Post
Schools need to make a learning environment where all students are able to learn. The first thing students need to feel is SAFE. So it is the school's job to make them feel safe. Wearing a rebel flag can imply hate which can make some students feel fearful. Witnessing to another student can make them uncomfortable and thus unable to learn.
Schools should provide a learning environment where all students feel safe, but I agree with GoForth that environment should also be "safe" for students to express - and hear - viewpoints and opinions different from their own and learn how to respond appropriately.

The rebel flag can imply hate. That may be true for some students, but it also can imply pride that has nothing to do with hatred (whether you believe that or not). Also, just because it "can imply" doesn't mean it automatically does. The prom dress recently discussed did not seem to offend any of the other students at the school and, in fact, was fiercely defended by some of the African-American students. Banning something because it "can imply" or "might imply" hatred is just as closed-minded as the opposing viewpoint. How about investigating to see if the student in questions actually expresses or exhibits hatred and/or intolerance rather than just "implying" it?

A better approach (IMO), would be for the teachers to provide a unit studying and exploring the history of the rebel flag and leading discussions on both the good and bad aspects of symbolism it represents. That way, one side could learn why the symbol is offensive to some while the other side could learn that displaying or wearing the symbol does not automatically mean a person has hatred or intolerance of other races. That way, both sides can learn from the perspective of others and, hopefully, be more understanding of opinions and views that differ from their own.

As far as one student making another so fearful they cannot learn just by sharing their faith with them, I find that to be a bit of a stretch. But we'll go with it anyway. What if a Muslim student wanted to express his/her belief in Allah or conduct his/her daily prayers towards Mecca during school hours? Would those displays of faith carry the same possibility of making some students so fearful they would be unable to learn? Or what if a student knew about a classmates Islamic faith and worried that might mean they were a potential terrorist; would we tell the Muslim student he/she cannot express or display their religious views in the school (so other students will feel "safe") or would we want to open a discussion about the misperceptions being held about a faith that is possibly different from that of the students feeling the concern?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucybelle View Post
So yes, although we can stand up and yell whatever we want because of our "rights" maybe we shouldn't. And since school is for learning, students should be taught that too.
I agree.
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  #17  
Old 04-28-2012, 10:59 AM
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I just think it will get the point where no one will be able to say anything anymore, express opinions, or be an individual because their actions or POV might "offend someone". "Free speech" isn't really free speech.

Due to technological advances, everyone is under a microscope now. The internet is part of the problem. Facebook was a place where people could go and vent and says whatever they wanted. But now, that website is being used dig up information, which is used to judge and scrutinize someone's character. The story where an employer was asking for an applicant's passwords? It's a pity, but if people think that's bad, it's only going to get worse...

In our attempt to please everyone and to be "neutral" and to hold back on opinions, we are only hurting ourselves. I get the rules and regulations at the workplace, but when it interferes in daily life (outside of work) then that is where I start to get worried.

Adults are starting to get worse than children. "Wah wah wah, so and so hurt my feelings and offended me!" Not even over a personal attack, but someone giving them THEIR opinion. It's just ridiculous. but I see evidence of that every day, including on forums.
Freedom is not for the fragile. Limiting speech to that which is "nice" or "safe" or "appropriate" conduces to a particularly subtle and dangerous sort of tyranny.
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  #18  
Old 04-28-2012, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Cerek View Post

As far as one student making another so fearful they cannot learn just by sharing their faith with them, I find that to be a bit of a stretch. But we'll go with it anyway. What if a Muslim student wanted to express his/her belief in Allah or conduct his/her daily prayers towards Mecca during school hours? Would those displays of faith carry the same possibility of making some students so fearful they would be unable to learn? Or what if a student knew about a classmates Islamic faith and worried that might mean they were a potential terrorist; would we tell the Muslim student he/she cannot express or display their religious views in the school (so other students will feel "safe") or would we want to open a discussion about the misperceptions being held about a faith that is possibly different from that of the students feeling the concern?
I'm not going to go into the Confederate flag thing since that post was just shut down.

I didn't say it would make kids "fearful" I said it might make them uncomfortable. I went to a public high school school where most people were Christians and we would participate in prayer before field trips, plays, rehearsals, football games, etc. It made me extremely uncomfortable to be in those situations. But it was so widely accepted in the school that nothing was ever said about it. I was very sure that if I said I didn't want to participate or I didn't believe the same as them, then I would be shunned from the school. I was young, I didn't know to stand up for myself. And I loved my school and my friends, I didn't want to be an outsider.

The example that was given by the OP was that one student was witnessing to another. Not praying before lunch, not praying before a test, not silently worshiping, not asking to pray during school hours, but actually involving another student. If the other student is timid, they might not admit that they are comfortable with this. I'm all about expressing religious freedom, but don't involve people who don't want to be involved. If a student requests to pray silently, cool. If a student requests to preach to the classroom, not cool. It puts peer pressure on those who might not actually want to participate. Sure they could always say no, but peer pressure is tough. How many teens do you know that have done things much worse than pray because of peer pressure?

I think our histories must be different and that's why we have differing opinions when it comes to religion in school.
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  #19  
Old 04-28-2012, 02:44 PM
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3Sons makes some valid points:
If you want to prohibit an activity or "disruptive (for affect) free speech" you must have your ducks in a row and be able to prove that it is disruptive to the learning atmosphere of the school , not just disruptive! The devil is in the details, You can not Be so ambiguous that it creates the act of "Profiling"(gosh has this term been beat to death) and you can't be so specific that it creates loopholes.
To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of actions I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [disruptive to the learning atmosphere]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, .....
Many rules at school are "for the greater good" where laws are aimed at the individual.
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  #20  
Old 04-28-2012, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by lucybelle View Post
I'm not going to go into the Confederate flag thing since that post was just shut down.
The issue with the Confederate flag is that it is just a symbol and symbols - by themselves - are neutral. It is the interpretation of symbols by people that make them either "good" or "bad". Just because you and others interpret the symbol one way does not make your interpretation "correct" and others "wrong", any more than it makes the opposing interpretations "right" and yours "wrong". The interpretation is left up to the individual. But the interpretation of one view should not override the interpretation of another.

Here's another example: the swastika. I think most people would naturally associate that with Hitler, the SS and Nazi party. But what if you saw a Navajo, Buddhist or Hindu wearing or displaying the symbol? The swastika has been used by these cultures much longer than it was with the Germans and has a much different meaning to them. Would we ban those for whom the swastika has strong spiritual meaning from wearing or displaying one? Or would we consider that an opportunity to learn more about their culture and the significance the symbol has to them?

Personally, I think it would be a wonderful learning opportunity and, perhaps, a chance to overcome the evilness and hatred associated with the symbol. There will still be some who DO use it as a symbol of that hatred and violence, but as educators, we could show our students this isn't the only meaning associated with the symbol.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lucybelle View Post
I didn't say it would make kids "fearful" I said it might make them uncomfortable. I went to a public high school school where most people were Christians and we would participate in prayer before field trips, plays, rehearsals, football games, etc. It made me extremely uncomfortable to be in those situations. But it was so widely accepted in the school that nothing was ever said about it. I was very sure that if I said I didn't want to participate or I didn't believe the same as them, then I would be shunned from the school. I was young, I didn't know to stand up for myself. And I loved my school and my friends, I didn't want to be an outsider.
I understand why that would make you uncomfortable, but the question wasn't about group or school-led prayers. Even though I'm a Christian, I would oppose those practices precisely because I know it would make some of my non-Christian students uncomfortable and may even send the message (indirectly) that it was alright to "pick on" those kids for not sharing the same beliefs.

So,that brings us back to the question about a Muslim student and his classmates feeling "uncomfortable" about him displaying or discussing his religion because they think it might mean he is a terrorist. I can easily see how that might make students so uncomfortable they had a hard time learning. So, do we prevent the Muslim from displaying or discussing his religion, or do we try to educate the other students about Islamic religion to help promote better understanding and acceptance?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucybelle View Post
The example that was given by the OP was that one student was witnessing to another. Not praying before lunch, not praying before a test, not silently worshiping, not asking to pray during school hours, but actually involving another student. If the other student is timid, they might not admit that they are comfortable with this. I'm all about expressing religious freedom, but don't involve people who don't want to be involved. If a student requests to pray silently, cool. If a student requests to preach to the classroom, not cool. It puts peer pressure on those who might not actually want to participate. Sure they could always say no, but peer pressure is tough. How many teens do you know that have done things much worse than pray because of peer pressure?

I think our histories must be different and that's why we have differing opinions when it comes to religion in school.
Peer pressure IS tough, no doubt about it. However, an individual student DOES have the right to discuss or share his/her religious beliefs with another student if (s)he wishes. As long as it is not sponsored, promoted or encouraged by the school staff - and is just one-on-one between two students - then the witnessing student is not violating the other students rights, just as the other student would not be violating the rights of the first by telling him take his beliefs and shove them because he/she doesn't want to hear about them.

If the student tries to witness during a class speech or presentation or over the P.A. system, that is a different matter entirely, but if it is just one-on-one between two students, I feel that is between the two students and learning how to handle that situation is part of the learning and growing process.
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