The Central Bucks School Board in Pennsylvania just instituted a policy banning teachers from expressing personal political opinions with their words or with visual elements in the classroom.
It was decided following a 6-3 vote and extensive debate. Policy 321 will be amended to prohibit teachers from displaying items such as Pride flags and Black Lives Matter signs along with MAGA hats or any other items which could be considered politically influenced.
The original 2018 version of Policy 321 restricted teachers from participating in political events during school hours, but now visual displays will be included, too.
“Neutrality and balance in classroom instruction are desired in order to create an optimal learning environment and atmosphere of inclusiveness, where all students are welcome,” the policy states. “Because views and beliefs about partisan, political, or social policy matters are often deeply personal, employees should not, during assigned work hours, advocate to students concerning their views or beliefs on these matters.”
Central Bucks County is located just north of Philadelphia.
The school board listened to two hours of public comment, which included numerous strong opinions from parents, teachers, and students who either supported or condemned the new policy.
“The conversation we had at the policy meeting was hot. I sincerely hope my fellow board members listen with an open heart…this policy also includes language that I’ve said out loud. We should be teaching how to think, not what to think,” Board Member Tabitha Dell’Angelo said, per local news outlet Delaware Valley News Journal.
Opponents are calling the policy a form of censorship.
“I’m concerned as a parent,” Heather Reynolds said, per CBS News Philadelphia. “I’m concerned as a community member. The decisions that the district is making have a real-world impact on our students and our community.”
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the Upper Bucks School District in October following a months-long investigation. They objected to pride flags being taken down at Lenape Middle School last spring, plus claimed students who identified as “LGBTQ” were being harassed and discriminated against.
They further asserted that the district cut ties with non-profits promoting “inclusiveness” and removed LGBTQ-themed books from school libraries.
“Two schools, at the beginning of the school year, announced a policy forbidding teachers of using preferred names and pronouns without parental consent,” ACLU staff lawyer Richard Ting said, “So, it’s a combination of all of these things that are exacerbating this hostile environment.”