“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedophold of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment
In that one amendment is:
- Separation of state and religion,
- Freedom of speech,
- Right to assemble peaceably,
- Petitioning the Government.
Those rights were exercised on May 16th in Raleigh when thousands of teachers and school employees and advocates marched and rallied for public education in North Carolina. Yet North Carolina has a General Assembly which is supposed to uphold the tenets of the constitution trying to pass a bill to place “In God We Trust” in each public school filled with lawmakers decrying the assembly of teachers on the first day of the NCGA’s session.
And those people who assembled at that march and rally were really quite peaceful.
There have been rumors of school administrators who told teachers to not participate in the rally and to take down any references to the march and rally from personal social media accounts. Whether those are isolated incidents or widespread, the fact that many teachers felt discouraged from speaking out on “a school day” is antithetical to one of the most important duties we as educators have: to advocate for students and students.
Last Thursday an editorial appeared on WRAL.com calling out school administrators on not overtly siding with teachers in their efforts to affect change for public schools (https://www.wral.com/editorial-n-c-school-administrators-should-side-with-schools-not-politicians/17560064/).
It referenced a letter from the NC Association of School Administrators to the General Assembly sent the day before the march and rally.
The editorial did not mince words.
“If the association had been doing its job, teachers wouldn’t have been left with no other choice but to RELUCTANTLY leave their classes to be heard in Raleigh. The letter is another example of a state association choosing to avoid confrontation with the legislative leadership, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger. Everybody knows they only increase public school support when the public demands it.”
This is the same General Assembly that took away due-process rights from new teachers in 2014. That effectively instilled a fear of reprisal in newer teachers who may need to advocate for students and schools.
This is the same General Assembly that had a voter ID law declared unconstitutional because it targeted minorities and those in poverty in a state that is considered one of the most gerrymandered in the country.
Gerrymandering on the scale that was used these past few years and limiting those who can exercise right to vote is really akin to squashing people’s First Amendment rights.
The teachers who marched and rallied serve schools filled with students whose voices are compromised because of various reasons – lack of resources, discriminatory laws like HB2, lack of Medicaid expansion among others. Some of those students are Dreamers.
What the letter from the NC Association of School Administrators really stated was that it would not speak up for students and the very people who know them and their situations well: teachers.
No wonder May 16th was needed if just to give voice.
Or rather free speech in a peaceful assembly to petition the state government to fully fund public schools as stipulated by the state constitution.
It is less than six months until November 6th when the polls open for elections. It is almost guaranteed that most all of those people who marched and rallied on May 16th will voting that day.
And voting is also guaranteed by the constitution.