Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No First Amendment protection for Teachers

"Teachers have no First Amendment free-speech protection for curricular decisions they make in the classroom," a federal appeals court ruled on October 21st, according to an Education Week article on School Law.  The following are excerpts from the article:

"Only the school board has ultimate responsibility for what goes on in the classroom, legitimately giving it a say over what teachers may (or may not) teach in the classroom," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, said in its opinion.

The decision came in the case of an Ohio teacher whose contract was not renewed in 2002 after community controversy over reading selections she assigned to her high school English classes. These included Siddhartha , by Herman Hesse, and a unit on book censorship in which the teacher allowed students to pick books from a list of frequently challenged works, and some students chose Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman.

"When a teacher teaches, the school system does not regulate that speech as much as it hires that speech," Sutton wrote, borrowing language from a 7th Circuit decision in a similar case. "Expression is a teacher's stock in trade, the commodity she sells to her employer in exchange for a salary. And if it is the school board that hires that speech, it can surely regulate the content of what is or is not expressed, what is expressed in other words on its behalf."

What do you think of this decision?  Does it limit the abilities of teachers to make decisions in the classroom to best suit individual classrooms?  What sort of impact do you think this decision will have on teachers in the future, if any?


  1. OMG!!!!! I teacher is hired to TEACH, and not to be the mouthpiece of a School Board. HOW that teacher chooses to deliver curriculum (which, while defined, should be tolerant of a broad set of possibilities) shoud be at that teacher's discretion. Especially in high school. Good Lord! If we don't teach our children to think for themselves, as they come up against the reality of the world, are we not failing them?

  2. Okay, Rob. Here's one for you. Maybe some books SHOULD be banned?

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