Teachers Should Not Wear Campaign Buttons in Schools

by Christopher Paslay


New York City public school teachers should be ashamed of themselves.  It’s one thing to campaign for a presidential candidate among colleagues, and quite another to politick in front of students.


Apparently, The United Federation of Teachers, NYC’s teacher’s union, doesn’t agree.  According to a story by the Associated Press, “The Teacher’s union for the nation’s largest public school system accused the city on Friday of banning political campaign buttons and sued to reverse the policy, declaring that free speech rights were violated.”


The lawsuit was filed yesterday in a US District Court in Manhattan.


Judge Lewis A. Kaplan quickly ruled against wearing the buttons, explaining that teachers must remain politically neutral while on duty in front of their students.  The judge also added that although most students would understand that a campaign button worn by an educator represented the personal views of the teacher only, there would be “inevitable misrepresentations by the minority”.


As a public school teacher in Philadelphia, I’m shocked that any educator with a conscience would want to wear their political views on their shirtsleeve in front of their students. 


For starters, it’s unethical.  A public school teacher is an agent of the state, and therefore must not show any religious or political bias, one way or another.  Just as teachers are forbidden to pray in front of students during instruction (even if it is for personal reasons), teachers should not advertise their personal politics to their classes by wearing a campaign button. 


This in my opinion is intolerable, because students should be taught to make decisions about the world themselves.  They should be given a balanced, objective representation of events, and be given the space to process this information on their own.  Young people in grades K -12 are too innocent and impressionable to be exposed to the spin from only one side of the political spectrum; our children should be at least college-aged before they are politically indoctrinated by educators. 


As a teacher, I never push my political views on young people.  When my students ask, Mr. Paslay, who are you voting for?,  I give them my stock answer: I haven’t decided yet.  And when the presidential candidates come up in classroom conversation, I always make it a point to remain neutral and give equal attention to both parties. 


The youth of America need to be taught HOW to think, not WHAT to think.  Educators must teach students critical thinking skills, not subtlety bait them into accepting the agendas of certain political parties.