At time when Salem-Keizer is struggling and mostly failing to deliver in its primary mission of educating kids, it boggles the mind that this is where they’re pouring their resources. Nonetheless…

According to yesterday’s Statesman-Journal article, Salem-Keizer teachers now okay to bring politics and religion to their classroom Zoom calls. From the Oct. 5, 2020 Statesman Journal:

Salem-Keizer teachers can wear Black Lives Matter shirts during class. They can also wear shirts that say, “Blue lives matter,” or a Trump or Biden 2020 campaign button.

This is something of a change since previous Superintendent guidance specifically said that referencing a candidate was unacceptable.

…district officials released a guiding document on what is permissible regarding social justice activism and political affiliations in the educational workplace.

Under the guidelines — as well as policies approved by the district superintendent and school board — the teacher is allowed to wear the [BLM] shirt.

“The district stands behind social justice and related messaging, which is what Black Lives Matter is,” said Sylvia McDaniel, director of communications for Salem-Keizer, adding it is not political to do so.”

As I’ve argued previously Black Lives Matter (BLM) is absolutely a social and political movement while “Black lives matter” the statement is not. In fact, the Statesman Journal articles goes on to say this exact thing:

Stating the lives of Black and African American individuals matter as much as any other life — or Black lives matter — is often considered separate from formal support of the organization Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc….

Examples of symbols, phrases that are allowed:

  • Black Lives Matter or “BLM”
  • All Lives Matter
  • Blue Lives Matter
  • Religious symbols or words

That’s right, teachers can now don all that Church of Satan swag from the back of their closet. Got to be just as permissible, right? Or maybe an “I heart Westboro Baptist Church” because, you know, religious freedom. The fact that Westboro is both a hate group (banned under Salem-Keizer policy) and a religious group (presumably now acceptable under Salem-Keizer policy) means we’ve made a reasonable, hypothetical court case in less than a paragraph.  

This policy injects politics and religion(!) into public education, an arena with a captive, impressionable audience. Public school teachers in the performance of their duties are agents of the state. In this context, they should be both non-partisan and non-denominational, both politically and religiously agnostic.

Public education is essential for creating informed citizenry and maintaining a pluralistic society. This sort of policy is not constructive in those efforts. So do not wonder why support for school choice—meaning using tax dollars to fund private schools—continues to grow when policies like this exist.