Teachers in the public school system can claim a number of rights pertaining to their employment in the public education system. They have the right to be recognized for certain freedoms, prohibitions against forms of discrimination, and significant protections against reasons for dismissal of the role at a school.
These rights are based on state and federal constitutional provisions, statutes, and regulations. From freedom of speech to the right to privacy, being a teacher should be looked at as operating with the same rights as others. But the real question is are these rights diminished in some way?
According to the Supreme Court, a teacher’s exercise of their right to speak on certain issues of public importance may not lead to their dismissal from public employment. If a teacher has an opinion about local politics, national government, or even local school boards, they cannot see their merits or place at a school taken away for these ideas.
Teachers can exercise plenty of rights in public education. They are not to be restricted in terms of choosing schools for their own children or in testifying against the Board of Education. The same goes for their religious beliefs. While a teacher cannot express their religious beliefs in the classroom, especially in a way that demeans another teacher’s or student’s beliefs, they can participate in their own religious activities outside of school.
Once outside the school, off-duty teachers are free to act as normal citizens, of course. A public school teacher, in this sense, is treated equally and protected under the law. But once inside the school and on school grounds, they assume the function of a school teacher and an educator and model to their students. In this case, schools have the right to uphold certain standards among their teaching staff.
When it comes down to it, teachers are expected to be model adults for their pupils and other adults on campus. While teachers have their own lives and stresses, upholding their status as responsible adult figures for students needs to be a priority. However, this notion does not get in the way of a teacher’s rights given to them by state, local, and federal statutes.
Freedom of speech and expression, for example, are two of the most basic and most important rights that teachers–like all professionals and citizens–have. This is something that can never be compromised. The only thing that will alter this and get in the way of a teacher expressing their freedoms is when they abuse their First Amendment right through inappropriate speech or certain social media posts.
Public school teachers are in a unique position as they are individuals and employees of the state. Therefore, school districts and boards have a concerted interest in making sure that the messages that students receive from their teachers are in lockstep with the goals and vision of the school and district.
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