Carlisle School Board to change policy that would prohibit employee’s speech on political, social movements

Carlisle/West Shore

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — On Thursday night Carlisle School Board discussed proposed changes to their policy about how employees in the district can talk about and participate in politics.

The policy in question, policy 421, has been in place in the Carlisle School District since 2006.

It states that “The Board recognizes and encourages the right of its employees, as citizens, to engage in political activity. However, district property, and school time, paid for by the citizens, may not be used for political purposes when performing assigned duties.”

However, one proposed change to that policy had several speakers upset.

The controversial line was the one written at the end of the guideline stating, “No professional employees shall engage in political activities during assigned work hours on District Property, unless permission has been granted for that purpose through the Use of Facilities Policy. This includes, but is not limited to, expressions of support for political or social movements, platforms, or campaigns.”

One of the opposed speakers was Megan Bieber, a teacher in the district.

“I teach black students, minority students, and their lives matter. The revised policy of 421 denies my right to let them know that,” Bieber said.

Tawanda Stallworth spoke against it on behalf of the Carlisle Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

“In matters of race and equity, actively choosing complicity is in fact choosing the side of oppression and injustice,” Stallworth said.

Dorene Wilbur said as a black teacher in the district, she feels limiting that speech limits her as an educator.

“I consistently feel as if I am in one shape, way, or form being silenced and not allowed to engaged in conversations with students, many of whom maybe did not have the opportunity to ask a black educator questions,” Wilbur said.

Multiple other people took the mic to oppose that change to the policy. None of the speakers at the meeting spoke in support of it.

Board members listened and agreed with the commenters.

Board President Paula Bussard proposed taking out the controversial line, which said, “This includes, but is not limited to, expressions of support for political or social movements, platforms, or campaigns.”

“There are so many opportunities to listen and learn,” Bussard said.

Bruce Clash, a board member, agreed with that change, noting that silencing educators was not their intention.

“Political activity, indoctrinating, which we don’t do, but we need to make that clear that that’s the intent of the policy,” Clash said.

Board Member Rick Coplen agreed, saying it’s up to teachers to help guide students on all kinds of issues.

“We have confidence in our teachers to do the right thing,” Coplen said.

The Board unanimously approved Bussard’s amendment to take out the line. They did approve changes to the policy that added electronic media to the definition of district property.

The new policy now says, “District Property – includes both facility and grounds, as well as electronic media (including, but not limited to, websites, learning management platforms, live streaming platforms, emails, etc.”

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