A nine-year veteran teacher was fired from Imagine Prep charter school in Los Angeles for having political bumper stickers on her car. (See Teacher at Imagine Charter School Fired for Bumper Stickers, from the Solidaridad blog). While many Americans erroneously believe their free speech rights are inalienable (you do actually lose many rights, including free speech, in private workplaces and, to a lesser extent, in public workplaces), this teacher never would have been fired so easily from a unionized public school. Her situation, though, is just one of many in which teachers’ right to free expression in public are being curtailed by their employers (please see the examples below, after the video).
Meanwhile, a teacher in suburban Philadelphia, Natalie Munroe, was suspended for anonymously blogging about anonymous students. Teachers do not give up their free speech rights when they leave campus, according to the ACLU, so she was within her legal rights. Various courts have ruled against free speech when it disrupts the mission of the school. However, in Munroe’s case, she never divulged her name, the name of the school or the names of any students, making it a very long stretch to argue that she in anyway disrupted the school climate, that is until she courageously (or naively) admitted everything to her principal. Munroe has a new blog, which can be read here.
The attacks on teachers’ expression, particularly off campus, conjure up memories of 19th and early 20th century morality, in which teachers were fired for moral turpitude, having a family, or being visibly pregnant, not to mention insubordination (a general catchall that includes any questioning or criticism of policy).
A Few More Examples:
- A California teacher was sued by a student for calling creationism “superstitious nonsense.”
- A school custodian lost a free speech case in which he was fired for reporting a suspected asbestos contamination on campus
- An Indiana teacher was fired for making an anti-war statement in class
- A Colorado teacher was disciplined for making disparaging remarks about President Bush
- An Ohio teacher was fired for assigning Heather Has Two Mommies and Siddhartha to her high school students and the disciplinary action was upheld by the courts
- A Michigan special education teacher was fired for whistle-blowing about student caseloads that exceeded the legal limit. The courts have ruled that such whistle-blowing (i.e., “On-the-job speech”) is NOT protected speech.
Welcome to the new gilded age where the odious plutocrats are the only ones with a semblance of free speech and it becomes clearer every day that the distinction between chattel and wage slavery is rice-paper thin.ReplyDelete
Were these other teachers at non-union shops as well?ReplyDelete
Some of these teachers were union and their unions fought for them,ultimately losing in the courts. Over the past 30 years, free speech by both teachers and students has been increasingly restricted by the courts.ReplyDelete
As for Robert's comments, I appreciate his poetic language, but do not see the distinction between chattel and wage slavery diminishing. Rather, I would hope that the reality of wage slavery is becoming more obvious to the overwhelming majority of us who happen to be wage slaves.
As the times become more desperate economically, it becomes more and more clear how dependent we are on our jobs to keep us fed and housed. One wrong word could get you fired and homeless. Thus, like slaves, we are stuck accepting low pay, onerous working conditions, degradation and humiliation, if we want to hold on to a steady paycheck.
I am glad you wrote on this disgusting trend, which is happening to union "protected" (haha) teachers in public schools as well. Here is a link to an article I wrote for the WSWS last October, detailing other incidents as well. http://wsws.org/articles/2010/oct2010/teac-o22.shtml.ReplyDelete
I am hoping these Wisconsin protests are the beginning of a real walk-out of teachers from these worthless unions, and a beginning of a push-back against these vicious attacks by the elite on workers' livelihoods and rights across the country and world.
Thanks, Isabelle. I remember your article and thanks for giving the link for anyone else who is interested.ReplyDelete
As for Wisconsin, let us hope it is the beginning of nation-wide push back. As WSWS has already pointed out, and I mention in a post today, "NEA says Take Our Wages, But Please Give Us A Voice," the race is already on by the national unions to reign in workers' anger and empowerment.
so the situation is going at it worst point teachers should have freedom to speak any thing either on the public place or at their work place after all they are the maker of our new generation building and i am also worried for those who said that "Take Our Wages, But Please Give Us A Voice," so terrible i must say even this is un-ethical practice to fire a teacher just because of a bumper stickers.ReplyDelete