Law & Courts

State Police Spying is Wry Civics Lesson

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — November 11, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The broad net cast by the Maryland State Police as part of a surveillance operation was designed to track suspected terrorists, but instead snared a number of activists—including an educator who gleaned some firsthand lessons for students in his civics class.

Pat Elder, an English and social studies teacher at the Muslim Community School, a private school in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, was targeted in the monitoring operation, he learned from state officials last month. He was among four dozen people linked to various nonviolent organizations, all with no criminal histories or other warning signs, who appeared on the state police watch list, according to reports in The Washington Post.

Mr. Elder, 53, of Bethesda, Md., is a longtime anti-war activist who works with the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth to fight federal rules allowing military recruitment in the nation’s public schools.

Teacher Pat Elder, in shirt and tie, demonstrates at a military recruiting station in Silver Spring, Md.

The incident has provided fresh content for his lessons on constitutional rights, particularly the First and Fourth amendments, he said.

“The constitution was written by very wise men, and they penned the Bill of Rights to protect us—in this case, our freedom of speech and assembly and from unwarranted search and seizure,” he said in an interview. “The Maryland State Police violated my constitutional rights by keeping track of me.”

Mr. Elder has in the past organized demonstrations and campaigns against the mandate in the federal No Child Left Behind Act that schools provide contact information for each student to the U.S. armed forces. Parents can choose to keep their children’s names off the list.

While he says he has never endorsed or participated in violence, being targeted by the surveillance program is “like a badge of honor,” he said.

“We are a danger,” he said of himself and other activists on the list. “We are a threat ...to those who do not respect constitutional law or authority.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2008 edition of Education Week

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Major Cases on Affirmative Action in Education
The outcome could affect K-12 policies when the justices rule on race-based policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
3 min read
A man talks on his phone on the steps of Harvard University's Widener Library, in Cambridge, Mass. on June 26, 2020.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up major cases on affirmative action in admissions at Harvard University, above, and at the University of North Carolina.
Elise Amendola/AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court to Hear Case of Coach Who Prayed After Games in Defiance of School District
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether school districts may prohibit private religious expression by public school employees.
4 min read
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy is in a conflict with the Bremerton, 
Wash., school district over his silent prayer after games.
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joseph A. Kennedy stands at on the 50-yard line at Bremerton Memorial Stadium. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal over his dismissal for praying after football games.
Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun via AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Blocks Biden Vaccine Mandate Applying to Schools in Much of the Country
The justices ruled 6-3 to stay an Occupational Health and Safety Administration rule that covered schools in 26 states and two territories.
4 min read
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo last April.
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal vaccine mandate for large employers, including school districts in about half the states.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP
Law & Courts Students Lose Appeal on Right to Civics Education, But Win Praise From Judges Anyway
A federal appellate court panel commended Rhode Island students for the novel effort, but said Supreme Court precedent stood in the way.
3 min read
Scales of justice and Gavel on wooden table and Lawyer or Judge working with agreement in Courtroom, Justice and Law concept.
Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock