Actually, Teachers Have 1st Amendment Rights As Well

“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.

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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.

 

 

Real Men Don’t Use Billboards To Tell Any Woman What They Should Do

Coming home from an afternoon trip to Greensboro, NC to visit the Nature Center, we encountered the following billboard on I-40 between Kernersville and Winston-Salem.

real-men

That’s right. It says “Real men provide Real women appreciate it.”

Of course, it made news. Even a news channel in Chicago reported on it.

When I first saw it, I thought it was a misprint, but alas, it was not. And I was driving a car with my wife in the front passenger seat and my teenage daughter in the back seat.

The smart ass within me wanted to ask out loud, “Provide what?”

  • Money?
  • Stability?
  • Diamonds?
  • Flowers?
  • Lessons in grammar because that was a blatant run-on sentence that does not even incorporate a period to end the independent clause that really does not allow women to be independent but dependent upon a man to do the “providing?”

And how should women show their appreciation? And that’s when I realized that whoever put this sign up on a busy interstate lived in an archaic, patriarchal version of unreality that I know my wife does not subscribe to and I would never want my daughter to think was appropriate.

Literally a month ago, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington D.C. for the Women’s  March to bring awareness to gender issues, many of which came to light with Donald Trump’s rise to power. The fact that the number of people who marched far outweighed the number of people at Trump’s inauguration spoke volumes about how many people in our country view gender-bias as another form of prejudice.

Then there was that embarrassing tweet from Sen. Joyce Kraweic concerning grease, brains, and lard that occurred right after the march ended.

But the single women who raised me taught me that what real men should provide is respect for women and that real men did not seek appreciation for just being men.

In a country that still does not equally pay women for equal work, a billboard like the one above simply reinforces the very negative constructs that hold our country back.

In a country whose laws do not adequately protect women from sexual abuse and that allows submissive stereotypes to define how younger people view women and young girls, a billboard like the one above simply does nothing but advertise ignorance.

Bill Whiteheart, whose company owns the billboard and leases its space, has been asked who sponsored the sign, but he declines to identify the people behind the message. He says that they can express free speech.

He’s absolutely right. And I am using free speech to say that its a bad use of speech (and grammar).

America affords us the right to do a lot of things.

One of those rights is the right to be wrong.