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Free Speech of Teachers RE: Michael Moore's Message

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From: Kimberly Herbert (kherbert_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Apr 27 2003 - 12:06:16 PDT


When we are on the job, we all need to be careful about what we say. I
try to be a devil's advocate, rather than neutral. My kids will ask me
what side I'm on - I always tell them the side that has you making up
your own mind. I have frequently taken my kids to task for bigoted
remarks though. Last year I had a difficult bunch. One set of parents
complained I was teaching religion, because their daughter came home and
asked about purgatory.

I explained that after an assembly about "festivals of light/winter
holidays" we had been talking about the different cultures represented.
Their daughter had elaborated on a Scandinavian Christmas custom that
had been presented. Then one of the other children asked why Day of the
Dead had not been part of the presentation. I explained that Day of the
Dead happened in the fall, and winter festivals were the focus of the
presentation we saw that day. (Houston only has three seasons summer,
July, and August so the confusion is understandable). Their daughter
asked about Day of the Dead. The other student said "It's a day were
souls are released from purgatory to visit us". She asked what purgatory
is, the bell was ringing and I told her to ask her parents, that I
wasn't comfortable with the conversation. In hindsight I should have
called them, but it was the last day before break and in the confusion I
forgot. They were satisfied with this, though they wanted to know why
the kids knew I was Catholic. You call CCC (computer lab) CCD enough
times (and once is usually enough) the Catholic kids know you are
Catholic.

As far as a published article, if you sign it XXXXXXX Teacher Name of
School or District, it looks like you are speaking for the school or
district and that could be a problem. If you simply present you opinion
in public as concerned citizen, then TPTB have no business taking you to
task on school time. Just because we work for the state in public
schools, does not mean we have given up our 1st Amendment rights. Quite
the opposite, we have a responsibility to speak up for our kids. If you
work directly for the administration i.e. as a diplomat you should
resign before criticizing the administration publicly. Several diplomats
have done just that over the War with Iraq. I also believe that members
of the military have certain restrictions about what they can say about
politics, and police/firefighters cannot campaign or work on a campaign
in uniform or on work time.

Sincerely,
Kimberly Herbert

-----Original Message-----
From: jw [mailto:jmwjeann@netscape.net]
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2003 7:36 AM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: Re: Michael Moore's Message

Hi. I'm wondering if your schools have any sort of 'policy' about what
teachers have the right to say to students or in public regarding world
events. Someone at my school wrote a critical editorial about our
administration's actions in Iraq to the local newspaper and was
admonished by our principal for 'offending the veteran grandparents of
the students'. I find this very disturbing, but perhaps I am just being

naive. Any thoughts?

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