Families, communities, and nations are strengthened by parents who take their parenting seriously. Most American parents will never be in a situation of passing their infant over a barbed wire fence to Marines from a foreign nation – as happened in Afghanistan this week. Most parents will never be in a position where they feel the need to fly to a foreign nation to rescue the female members of a team from that nation – as happened in early August 2021. However, all parents must be alert to what is being taught to their children in the public-school systems of America.
Parents in Lehi, Utah, were put on notice about a science teacher at Lehi High School who went out of bounds in her classroom. She was expressing her political opinions to her students, and her comments were captured in a student’s cellphone video that was shared widely. The Alpine School District announced Wednesday that said teacher is no longer working for their school district.
The statement did not specify if the teacher resigned or was fired. One would think that a Utah educator for seventeen years would understand what discussion and behavior was appropriate in a classroom – but apparently not. The statement said that the matter had been investigated on the first day of school, and an earlier statement said: “This behavior is inappropriate, not reflective of the professional conduct and decorum we expect of our teachers, and will not be tolerated.”
The Utah Board of Education is aware of the situation and will review the complaints in September in its meeting. The educator’s license could be impacted by investigation into the allegations.
This incident shows that there are limitations to an educator’s freedom of speech while they are in the school setting. According to an ACLU guide titled “Free Speech Rights of Public and Charter School Teachers and Staff in Utah, “Speech in the classroom does not have the same First Amendment protection as speech by a private individual outside of a school setting. School districts have the authority to control the content, curriculum, and methodology adopted by school staff.”
According to the code of conduct for Alpine School District, employees and volunteers are expected to be professional in their interactions. “This includes communicating in a civil manner and not promoting personal opinions, issues or political positions as part of the instructional process in a manner inconsistent with the law.
So, what did the teacher say that got her in trouble? She expressed her feelings about being exhausted by the pandemic and being proud of students who get vaccinated. She also expressed her hatred for former President Donald Trump and urged the students to not watch Fox News. Remember, teachers should not express their political views, so this was a no-no. However, it got worse. She told the students, “most of ya’ll parents are dumber than you,” so they do not need to believe the words of their parents. In addition, she told them that they should “get the hell out” if they do not believe in climate change.
The state laws, rules, and policies allow discussion in classrooms about contemporary issues, but teachers have guidelines as to how they should guide classroom discussions on such issues.
Educators are expected to be “role models of civic and societal responsibility.” They are to “maintain professional standards on how they teach their content, conduct themselves in the classroom and create safe learning environments for students.” Kristin Hadley, dean of Weber State University’s College of Education made the following statement:
If you’re giving your opinion on something that might cause someone in your classroom to feel less safe in that learning environment, and less able to learn effectively, then that’s going against these professional standards and that’s something we teach them that you can’t do.
The teacher in Lehi, Utah, overstepped her First Amendment rights, and she may lose her teaching license for her bad decision. However, parents must be alert for other educators who may be activists in the classroom and be prepared to protect the students from indoctrination. Parents who are aware of what happens in the classroom can strengthen their own family as well as other families, communities, and nations.