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Huntsville teachers distribute pro-Common Core fliers while on the job

Flyer Screen Shot

Is it appropriate for school teachers to distribute political fliers while on the job?

That’s the question Yellowhammer posed to state and local school officials today after receiving numerous emails from parents who were given pro-common core pamphlets by their child’s teacher during “open house.”

A parent of a Farley Elementary School student told Yellowhammer that he was surprised when a teacher handed him the flier as part of a packet of material discussing the upcoming school year.

“It is a flagrant disregard of ethics,” Anson Knowles told Yellowhammer. “Teachers working in their official capacity are not supposed to distribute political propaganda.”

I explained the scenario to Farley Elementary’s principal, Clifford Porter, and asked if he saw any issues with the teacher’s actions.

“Right now I don’t have any comment,” Porter said during our brief phone conversation.

The office of Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski told Yellowhammer he would not be returning our call this week because it is the first week of school.

But we were able to get in touch with Dr. Jennie Robinson, who represents District 3 on the Huntsville School Board, which includes Farley Elementary. Robinson told Yellowhammer that the teachers distributed the fliers at the direction of the Huntsville City Schools Superintendent.

“This is a curriculum issue, not a political issue,” Robinson said. “The flyers represent an effort to inform parents about state standards and curriculum issues. I believe it is both legal and appropriate for our school system to share this information with parents. As school officials, we frequently advocate for our children and want our parents to be effective advocates as well. I’ve talked with our Board’s counsel and we are operating well within the bounds of the law.”

Dr. Michael Sibley, communications director for the Alabama Department of Education, said they do not encourage teachers to distribute political information on the job.

“We don’t encourage anyone to do that,” Sibley told Yellowhammer by phone. “In their private life, that’s fine, but we don’t ask teachers to encourage or discourage [support for any political issues] while in their official position.”

Sibley did say, though, that he understands why teachers would want to get out “the truth” about Common Core Standards.

“We have been pushing back against the barrage of misinformation that has been put out there about Common Core,” he said. “Many teachers feel like this is an exciting new way of learning and teaching that benefits the students of this state and will make them college and career ready — prepared to go into the workforce with some type of employable skill.”

“Teachers are called to do what they do,” he continued. “It’s their passion. So when they see push back from misinformed people, they tend to get excited about wanting to inform them. We haven’t had this kind of reform in a long time in Alabama.”

Sibley spoke with the DOE’s legal counsel and said that while they did not authorize the publication or its distribution, the fliers were disseminated in accordance with the law.

“The state would not involve itself in authorizing or endorsing any publication like that, but there is no state law or policy prohibiting it.”

Anson Knowles, the parent of the Farley Elementary student, says he still believes the teacher’s actions were unacceptable, and that the incident has inspired him to take action. “I am considering running for the [Huntsville School Board] District 3 seat in 2014,” he said.

What do you think? Is it ok for teachers to pass out these fliers at school?

[Click to enlarge]
Common Core Flyer 1

Common Core Flyer 2

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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