Teaching Profession

UFT Sues N.Y.C. Over Political Buttons

By Vaishali Honawar — October 10, 2008 1 min read

New York City teachers have taken to federal court their fight against a school district policy that bans teachers from wearing campaign pins in schools, saying it violates their rights to free speech and political expression.

The United Federation of Teachers today filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking a temporary restraining order against the policy, which, according to the UFT, has been on the books but has not been followed for decades. But on Oct. 1, city schools Chancellor Joel Klein asked principals in an e-mail to enforce it.

UFT President Randi Weingarten told reporters today that “it doesn’t matter whether you support Democratic Senator Barack Obama or Republican Senator John McCain. As voters, we all should have the right to express our views.”

There have been similar incidents in other districts: Just last week, teachers in Soquel, Calif., were asked to leave their political buttons behind when entering classrooms. But the issue raises interesting questions about freedom of expression for teachers.

The union argues, rightly so, that teachers are individuals with responsibilities as professionals and citizens that they need to balance.

On the other hand, I don’t think most workplaces would look kindly on their employees wearing political buttons on the job.

You tell us what you think.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.