A federal district judge has ruled that the New York City school system’s prohibition against teachers’ wearing of campaign buttons in school is likely constitutional.
In an Oct. 17 opinion, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of U.S. District Court in Manhattan rejected a request by the United Federation of Teachers for a preliminary injunction that would bar enforcement of the city schools chancellor’s regulation against wearing political buttons.
The judge said that while most students wouldn’t perceive the teachers’ buttons as representing the views of the school district, the 1.1 million-student district had an interest in “avoiding the entanglement of their public educational mission with partisan politics.”
The UFT, which like its parent, the American Federation of Teachers, has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president, sued the New York City school system on Oct. 10, seeking to block the regulation, which the district reiterated in September after the union had urged button-wearing and other political activity. The union argued that teachers had worn campaign buttons in city schools for years and that such actions were protected by the First Amendment. (“Teachers’ Campaign Buttons Stir Up Controversy,” Oct. 15, 2008.)
A version of this article appeared in the October 29, 2008 edition of Education Week