The Central Bucks School Board is scheduled to vote on Policy 321 at its Jan. 10 evening meeting. Various groups have voiced objections to this policy and complain that it would make teachers the target of parents who object to some subject matter.
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. 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. Such advocacy does not contribute to a positive learning climate and may be disruptive, divisive, and distracting. Rather, classroom instruction should relate to approved curriculum. The district’s role is to teach students how to think, not what to think, thereby keeping classrooms as places of education, not indoctrination.
For purposes of this policy, advocacy and advocate are defined as the use of speech, conduct, or symbols to support or oppose a particular point of view or belief about partisan, political, or social policy issues or matters.
The Board adopts the following guidelines to clarify which activities are not appropriate during assigned work hours and on all District owned or leased property, within all school buildings, and at all District-sponsored activities:
- Employees shall not advocate to students concerning any partisan, political, or social policy issue nor engage in partisan, political or social policy electioneering or campaigning unrelated to employee representative elections.
- Employees shall not display any flag, banner, poster, sign, sticker, pin, button, insignia, paraphernalia, photograph, or other similar material that advocates concerning any partisan, political, or social policy issue.
- Employees shall not distribute, circulate, or display circulars, leaflets, petitions, or similar material that advocates concerning any partisan, political, or social policy issue.
- Employees shall not collect or solicit funds or volunteers for any partisan, political, or social policy campaign or activity.
- Employees shall not direct or encourage students to write, address, or distribute advocacy materials related to any partisan, political, or social policy issue.
- Any District employee who holds elective, appointive, or partisan office is not entitled to time off from his District duties for reasons related to such office, except as such time may qualify under the leave policies of the Board or the pertinent collective bargaining agreement.
This policy specifically exempts the following from the above prohibitions:
- Instruction and study concerning partisan, political, or social policy issues when directly relevant to the curriculum and appropriate to classroom studies given the students’ age, class year, and course of study; provided, however, that such instruction or study is not for the purpose of advocating concerning a partisan, political, or social policy issue.
- The display of flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or of any military branch or unit of the United States or the Commonwealth; and flags of foreign countries or other U.S. States or territories when directly relevant to a course of study in a social studies or foreign language class.
- Wearing small pieces of jewelry, consistent with the professional dress code, that symbolically represent an individual’s personal beliefs.
Delegation of Responsibility
This policy is not a prohibition on topics of speech. Rather, it is designed to promote education instead of indoctrination or endorsement of partisan, political or social policy matters. In an analogous context, the district has long educated students about world religions but cannot endorse a particular religion. When implementing and enforcing Policy 321, District employees, the Superintendent and principals may be guided by that existing and familiar non-endorsement principle.