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

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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

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 Biden Admin. Asks Supreme Court to Allow Part of Title IX Rule to Take Effect
The solicitor general asks that most of new Title IX rule be allowed to go into effect, even as gender-identity provisions remain blocked
3 min read
The Supreme Court building is seen on Friday, June 28, 2024, in Washington.
The Supreme Court building is seen on Friday, June 28, 2024, in Washington. The Biden administration on July 22 asked the justices to allow parts of the new Title IX regulation to go into effect even as provisions on gender identity remain blocked.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Law & Courts Two Appeals Courts Won’t Block Injunctions Against Biden's Title IX Rule
As the Aug. 1 date approaches for the broad new regulation to take effect, courts have blocked it in much of the country.
4 min read
Kansas high school students, family members and advocates rally for transgender rights, Jan. 31, 2024, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan.
Kansas high school students, family members and advocates rally for transgender rights, Jan. 31, 2024, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Two federal appeals courts have denied requests by the Biden administration to put aside injunctions blocking a new Title IX regulation that includes protections for transgender students.
John Hanna/AP
Law & Courts Letter to the Editor Religion in the Classroom May Be Legal, But Is It Just?
A teacher responds to Louisiana's Ten Commandments law.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Law & Courts Posting Ten Commandments in Schools Was Struck Down in 1980. Could That Change?
In 1980, the justices invalidated a Kentucky law, similar to the new Louisiana measure, requiring classroom displays of the Decalogue.
13 min read
Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signs bills related to his education plan on June 19, 2024, at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette, La. Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, the latest move from a GOP-dominated Legislature pushing a conservative agenda under a new governor.
Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, signs bills related to his education plan on June 19, 2024, at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette, La. One of those new laws requires that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, but the law is similar to one from Kentucky that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 1980.
Brad Bowie/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP