School Caught In VIOLATION – Their Rule Went Too Far
(FeaturedNews.com) – After one of its policy decisions backfired, a school district that came under scrutiny decided to fight back. Unfortunately, its attempt to silence a potentially embarrassing situation may have violated the district teachers’ constitutional rights. In a letter to the district, The Rutherford Institute law firm argues that the schools might be staring down the barrel of a First Amendment lawsuit by adding one-sided language to its contracts.
A Hypothetical Gone Wrong
The issue began when an administrator at the Carroll Independent School District in Texas took a training session to a seemingly unnecessary and uncomfortable place. “Critical Race Theory Law” in Texas requires that all controversial subjects be met with multiple perspectives. It seems that this official, to make a point, presented the possibility that some might see the Holocaust as controversial; therefore, opposing views should be accepted.
Teachers from the district, upset at the very premise of the statement, spoke out about it and garnered media attention that put the school district in a negative light.
Combatting Scandal with Censorship
In response to the media attention and questions that followed, the school district added a clause to its teachers’ contracts that forbid educators from speaking about their employer in a negative way publicly. While that may seem as though it suppresses First Amendment rights in and of itself, it’s important to remember that the first item on the Bill of Rights protects against government censorship itself.
Rutherford’s letter contends that by forbidding only negative speech towards the district and not all speech, including positive affirmations, the district is directing what it will and will not allow its employees to say at its discretion. Since the employer is the public school system, a direct line from the government can be easily drawn, and a First Amendment argument made.
A Chilling Message
Rutherford’s president, John Whitehead, used the term “muzzling the teachers” to explain the complete lack of respect for basic constitutional principles such as freedom of speech. He said taking the teacher’s ability to speak their minds about governmental policies deprives them of their inalienable right to free speech and expression.
Whitehead believes that by suppressing the voices of the teachers, students will learn there is no room for transparency and accountability in government.
The Precedent Seems Clear
The institute’s letter plainly states that the school district is trying to “avoid discomfort and unpleasantness by censoring critical viewpoints.” It does so with the non-disparagement clause, which Rutherford argues stifles free speech and censors the ability of teachers to inform parents of topics they find disturbing — or those needing a new set of eyes.
According to the letter, those ideals don’t align with historical precedent, which holds dear the right of students to learn and teachers to teach.
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