September 11, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, mmccormick@aclukansas.org

OVERLAND PARK, KS - The ACLU of Kansas has asked the Wichita school district to rescind a disciplinary action taken against a teacher who has posted vocal opposition to the district plans to reopen public schools on social media.

USD 259 officials issued the English Language Art’s teacher who wished to remain anonymous, a write-up for her posts, a move the civil rights and civil liberties organization has characterized as “weaponizing inapplicable policies as a pretext to censor them.”

“As a remedy, we ask that the District rescind the write up it issued to (the teacher) and advise that she may continue to post her views about the District’s reopening protocol without any fear that her employer will further interfere with her right to free speech,” said the ACLU’s letter addressed to the District’s General Counsel, Tom Powell. “We also urge you to cease threatening and intimidating other teachers and employees for voicing criticisms of the District’s reopening plan. This letter is an attempt to resolve this matter amiably.”

The letter goes on to say that the voices of educators are critically important in this moment but that many teachers who share her concerns remain reticent, fearing reprisals from administrators.

The case stems from a 48-second, Aug. 5 video the teacher recorded before a district in-service training in which she documented her temperature check which was required before she’d be allowed to enter the facility.

When her temperature read “93.9,” the teacher feared the thermometer was not functioning properly and the incident added to her unease that the screening process was deficient. The same day, The Eagle featured her in an article in which she expressed her belief that the District was ill-prepared to safely begin in-person instruction with its current protocols.

Following subsequent contact with inquiring journalists and subsequent social media posts, district officials called the teacher to a disciplinary meeting and warned that she would face further discipline including termination if she continued to post about the District’s preparedness to reopen and resume activities during the pandemic.

This is the Kansas affiliate’s second foray into a First Amendment violation in a school setting in as many years. Only last year, the Shawnee Mission School District settled a lawsuit brought by the affiliate on behalf of middle and high school students covering a 2018 student protest against gun violence in schools.

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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.