Loose lips and all that

The Florida Citizens for Science membership has been debating the authority of one school district’s order for its science teachers to stay mum when it comes to the media calling and asking about evolution. The Gradebook mentions that St. Petersburg Times reporters have been trying to collect teachers’ opinions about evolution in the classroom. Seminole County didn’t like all that snooping and so issued the following notice:

It has come to our attention that press calls are being made to some schools regarding the question of teaching evolution in our schools.

Please remind your staff members, who may be contacted, that if they receive calls they are to be referred to the district office, specifically to my office. This question is a district issue, not one to which individuals should respond. We are aware that the St. Petersburg Times is currently making some random calls.

Previously, when I was contacted by the media concerning this question, I responded: It is the official position of the administration that is responsible for making curriculum decisions that the science curriculum of Seminole County Public Schools is aligned with the Sunshine State Standards and meets the requirements of law. No discussion beyond that statement is held.

If a teacher wants to speak with a reporter after school hours, off of school property and makes it clear he or she is not speaking on behalf of the school district, can the school district stop the teacher? If I understand correctly, the reporter in this specific case wants to hear from teachers about personal experiences when in a classroom full of kids. Provided the interview is not about general policy, what is the problem with relating personal anecdotes?

Quite a few FCS members have said that the teacher should be able to speak under the above outlined circumstances, but that doing so could still result in an uncomfortable working environment. Maybe the teacher won’t be formally disciplined, but some FCS members have made it clear that there are plenty of other ways to make a teacher feel the heat, unfortunately.

What do you think?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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3 Responses to Loose lips and all that

  1. Karen R says:

    Further, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the press (or citizens) to ask for a more detailed statement than the one given. Many of the school boards that have passed resolutions have made comments explaining that if the standards passed, they will have to include the ‘questionable’ concepts in their curriculum.

    I don’t think that particular statement even goes that far – it appears to only reference current standards, and leaves open the question of support for the draft standards. Do citizens and journalists not have the right to ask their teachers whether the new standards are well crafted?

  2. PC-Bash says:

    Hmm… I’m a tax payer in Seminole County. Maybe I should call the school board and get them to clarify their response here.

  3. nunyer says:

    IM(NS)HO, the school district has no right whatsoever to abridge its employees’ freedom of speech outside of the workplace. The employee can make it clear that he/she is not speaking as a representative of the school/district.

    Science teachers are being asked to comment on a subject in which they have significant expertise, expertise which is probably sadly lacking among the board members. Shame on the board for trying to muzzle their teachers. Let’s hope the reporters take the school board to task on this one.

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