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Public school district looks to punish teachers for criticizing critical race theory

UPDATED

A public school district in Virginia will decide in a little over a week whether to strip teachers’ First Amendment rights when it comes to topics like critical race theory.

The Loudoun County Public Schools’ revised standards for “professional conduct” would prevent educators from criticizing the district’s “commitment to action-oriented equity practices” which includes “on-campus and off-campus speech, social media posts, and any other telephonic or electronic communication.”

The proposal rationalizes this by claiming such actions would “impact an individual’s ability to perform their job responsibilities” and/or “create a breach in the trust bestowed upon them as an employee.”

The standards also note that comments or actions which “undermin[e] the views, positions, goals, policies or public statements of the Loudoun County School Board or its Superintendent” could fall under the category of “harassing or discriminatory” conduct.

Worse still, teachers would be required to rat on their colleagues if they see/hear any such communications, according to the West Nova News:

Per the policy, LCPS employees would have a “duty to report” their colleagues alleged free speech violations to the school administration.

The policy acknowledges that employees have a “First Amendment right to engage in protected speech” but says it “may be outweighed” by LCPS interest in “promoting internal..and external community harmony and peace” and  achieving [Superintendent Eric] Williams’ “directives, including protected class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism.”

LCPS employees accused falsely of “violations” of the speech policy are prohibited from “retaliating” against their accuser. Also, the policy would accommodate “false complaints” and not discipline those making them so long as they were found to have been made in “good faith.”

The LCPS school board will vote on the proposed revisions October 12.

City Journal’s Christopher Rufo, a prominent critical race theory critic, noted on Twitter he already was “getting bites” from potential plaintiffs for a lawsuit against the district, and that he has an “elite law firm” ready to represent them.

Former US Department of Education official Hans Bader notes in an email to The Fix that in addition to First Amendment claims, teachers facing any sort of discipline based on Loudoun’s conduct proposals could also make claims based on Title VI or Section 1981 — as these “have been interpreted as forbidding retaliation against students and faculty who protest discrimination.”

UPDATE: Comments from Hans Bader were added.

Read the article and full proposed “professional conduct” standards.

MORE: High school free speech case a ray of hope for 1st Amendment

MORE: SCOTUS conservatives denounce 9th Circuit’s view of teacher free speech rights

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 15 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.

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