There has been an increase in raging court battles between teachers and school authorities across the country. Several teachers have reported having been denied their individual rights, discriminated or even dismissed (Cambron-McCabe, McCarthy, & Eckes, 2014). Moreover, the teachers’ freedom for instance how they can conduct their teaching, what religion they belong to or even what type of dress code they can adhere to are under increased examination and increasing challenges. Despite teachers dedicating themselves to their hectic daily routines, they are confronted with legal restrictions and challenges to their individual rights and freedom. As a result, several legal issues regarding teachers’ rights emerge mostly in the K-12 setting (McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, & Eckes, 2014). The majority of these issues are attributed to tenure. However, this paper analyzes three different cases of a teacher whose individual rights, were denied while giving supportive reasons for the decision arrived at for each case and my opinion about each case.
Mr. Cole, a public school teacher in Maine, teaching social studies brought up a litigation suing the school district the reason being that they violated the First Amendment rights in the instance that he wanted to conduct his teaching regarding non-Christian religions to his middle school students (Cole v. Maine School Administrative Dist., 2004). In the suit, Mr. Cole claimed to have been discriminated against. In the final judgment ruling, the judge determine Cole to have come up with a reasonable factual issue seeking to determine if the school district was pressured by the Christian conservatives. Additionally, the judge identified that he had also developed a shroud of orthodoxy due to the inclusion of Cro-Magnon as well as cave painting in his classroom discussion painting. (Cole v. Maine School Administrative Dist., 2004). Therefore, these two reasons contributed to the judge eventually ruling in favor of Mr. Cole.
In my view, I agree with the ruling. It is a fact that denial of participation and exercising religious activities by an individual beseeches the religion clause provided in the First Amendment. Teachers have the right to exercise their own religion though when engaged in religious-based activities they are greatly limited when it comes to curriculum (OSLER, 2017). Even though like any other citizen, Mr. Cole being a teacher literally is entitled to exercise the religion of his choice. Nevertheless, he is not entitled or permitted to proselytizing as well as indoctrinating students, which is a ban upheld in schools including further efforts of presenting religious perspectives either in or outside the class though during school days (OSLER, 2017). This suggests that the mandate and control of the teacher can result in students assuming that the school endorses the perspective of the teacher.
Teachers are expected to teach about religion but not teach religion like they are gospel. However, prevention of teachers from teaching standard and appropriate curriculum due to outside influence from stakeholders such as parents or the community with efforts to dictate while manipulating the school program in a way that is not appropriate is not accepted (Osler & Starkey, 2010). This is what happened to Mr. Cole and the judge has determined that Mr. Cole issue was genuine being a fact that the school is tied to external pressure arising from Christian fundamentalists. Even though majority of courts would have ruled in the favor of the school district backing up the state interest in order to offer proper education over an individuals’ religious interest of Mr. Cole but this judge has stood out to make is ruling based on Mr. Cole’s genuine facts of argument that made him prevail in the case.
In this case, Maria Calef is the plaintiff who claims that the defendant which is the School District deprived of her a chance to substitute teach at Dent Middle School in a reprisal of practicing her First Amendment which is the right to freedom of speech through opposing against President Bush and U.S military immersion in Iraq (Calef v. Budden, 2005). In the judgment, the court found that Calef had made some negative statements in the middle of her classes about America’s military policy in Iraq and also Panama were determined not to be under the protection of the First Amendment. In determining the case, the court used the Pickering interest to balance the interest of the employee and his rights being a citizen in addressing public policy challenges against the nation’s interest towards promotion of proficient public services (Calef v. Budden, 2005). In pulling a decisive stand for the school system, the court made an explanation of the Pickering test that it acknowledges the government of being capable of imposing limitations on the First Amendment job-related activities to its employees which these restraints is unconstitutional suppose it is executed to the general public (Calef v. Budden, 2005). Moreover, the reason that gave Calef more burdens that she lost the case and got dismissed is that many of the students in the school were children of the military.
I personally agree with this judgment. I find the ruling against Calef being fair. Speech in the best interests of the general public may entail politics thus being the epicenter for the First Amendment (Lowe, 2002). Calef amongst another teacher cannot be deprived of their individual rights to circulate petitions, engage in political events or campaign. However, teachers are not permitted to indoctrinate students in their teaching or typically give inappropriate political opinions (Lowe, 2002). Calef indoctrinated students when she made negative comments about President Bush and the U.S military to the students in the class. In essence, what makes Calef guilty of indoctrinating students is because the teaching is a curriculum-based activity which was taking place in the school. Therefore the judgment is rendered to be fair.
In this case, Newton, a high school teacher encountered a difficult situation at the point when a court order was given for him to get rid of the pamphlets that he had placed outside the classroom listing books that are banned (Newton v. Slye, 2000). With intent to establish a discussion a significant public policy, it was determined by the judge that it was an allowance of the curriculum to post the materials which he mentioned to be the school officials being responsible for it (Newton v. Slye, 2000). Actually, a teacher is unable to disregard a curriculum, text, or syllabus.
I agree with this ruling. Teachers have to be granted unlimited independence by commenting on the teaching material. The most restraints on teachers’ freedom under the First Amendment are the ones that are curriculum-based implicating matters of academic restrictions and freedom (Thomas, 2015). The level of power granted to teachers is an interpretation of the center of these disputes, specifically in shaping their teaching, assess and give comments on matters relating to their curriculum. Like other freedoms provided by the constitution, the teacher commenting on teaching materials limited. Typically, it is upon the teacher’s will to utilize the freedom of teaching a particular material or topic if only the material does not in any way impede school discipline (OSLER, 2017). This means that the material has to be appropriate and suitable for the class and also students’ age. Even though teachers might give comments regarding the contents of the material in the curriculum, they lack control over the material which pertains to the school. I, therefore, find the ruling justifiable and fair.
Essentially, teachers have less freedom when in the classroom as compare to when outside since they make influence impacting students. Though stringently restrained in the selecting of curriculum, students are capable of being influence by teacher in way of teaching. The actual rate of teacher’s influence varies with the type and the communities’ activism. It is evident that most of the First Amendment rights are refrained or rather limited for teachers. These refrained rights have rendered some teachers into trouble, discrimination or even dismissal since the refrained rights may not be protecting them in certain situations. Most cases involving teachers’ rights are usually not litigious and rational reaffirming the need for ensuring equal rights for teachers too. Teachers’ rights actually are under looked since most of the courts rule in favor of the school over individual rights for the sake of public interest. This has significantly raised issues of injustices to the teacher. Therefore, teachers’ rights need to be looked into, grant equal rights to teachers and as well take into consideration teachers’ rights when making judgments in courts rather than overlooking them in the name of public interest.