The Professional by EGEA
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The Professional

January 2017

Controversial Issues

It is important for educators to understand how to approach political activities and conversations that may include content of a controversial nature. You may have students who express concerns over political issues and how they may be affected. It's important to express concern for students, but in addition educators should be aware of their legal rights and responsibilities in regards to addressing potentially controversial topics with students.

How can I show support for students who approach me with concerns?

  • Listen to student concerns and assure them that they are safe at school.

  • Answer student questions in a factual manner. If conversations arise about controversial topics in class, attempt to present other viewpoints of the issues.

  • Refer students to additional resources as needed. Classroom educators do not always have the expertise or time in class to handle difficult conversations.

  • Remind concerned students that no one person can change things or dictate policies; our government has a system of checks and balances embedded within the system.

  • Let students know that change takes time; nothing happens overnight.


What legal responsibilities should I be aware of in regards to political activities or discussing controversial issues with students?

As a public school teacher your First Amendment free speech rights generally apply to prevent your employer from taking adverse actions against you on the basis of protected speech outside of work. However, the Constitution does allow for some limitations on the exercise of political rights in the workplace, particularly during instructional time and when acting in the apparent or actual capacity of a District employee.

Thus, an educator should not engage in and must avoid the following activity while at work and/or while acting as a representative of the school district:

  • Use your authority as an EGUSD employee to encourage/discourage a specific political activity or opinion of students;

  • Use students to write, address, or distribute political materials;

  • Express political opinions to staff members that becomes harassment, bullying, or  intimidating.

Limitations on political activity do not apply while you are outside of work and acting as a private citizen, and not as a public employee. However, keep in mind that some activity that is arguably political can lose its protected nature if it violates state law. For example, activities that infringe on the rights of others or express views in a way that is unlawful (e.g., hate crimes) can lose First Amendment protection.

Under District policy, teachers may discuss controversial issues in the classroom, provided that the issue is related to the course of study or is instigated by students. EGUSD Board policy states that teachers, in this context, can express personal opinions, but should be careful to identify their own personal opinion as such and do not use their position to forward religious, political, economic, or social bias. Educators might consider setting ground rules for class discussions to ensure civil discourse on controversial topics. Remind students to respect the viewpoints of others and refrain from personal attacks.

These rules generally apply to extracurricular activities with students, like student groups. For example, if students want to start a club related to political or social justice issues and asks you to participate as a faculty advisor, refrain from promoting or appearing to be a member of the club. Student organization activities shall not substantially conflict with the authority and responsibilities of school officials. School staff shall not promote or be a member in student organizations.

EGEA is always available to provide further guidance on these issues. If you have any questions, or are contacted regarding any possible disciplinary action due to your activities, please contact EGEA.

To learn more about relevant District policies, refer to the following links:

Coffee and Networking
for Educators

EGEA will be hosting a Coffee and Information/ Networking Faire for educators on Tuesday, February 28th at the EGEA Office. Drop in anytime from 3-5pm for hand made specialty coffee and information from a variety of vendors. EGEA Leaders and Exec Board will be on hand to chat and answer questions as well. Or just come by to visit! We hope to see you there.

Vendors on hand will be:
  • CalRTA
  • CalSTRS
  • EGUSD Careers and Technical Education (CTE) Department
  • EGUSD Curriculum and Professional Learning (CPL)
  • EGUSD Payroll
  • King's Skate Country (Info about field trips which includes STEM lessons and time rollerskating)
  • And others!!!

Site Visits

EGEA Leaders will be visiting sites starting in February. Your EGEA Site Rep will make arrangements for the meeting, so look for detailed information in the next few weeks. This will be a good time to get bargaining and state budget updates, as well as ask questions of EGEA Leaders.

CTA Scholarships

There are two upcoming deadlines for CTA scholarships. CTA has scholarships for members as well as their dependent children. Awards are up to $5,000 and there are several scholarships available. The deadline is February 3rd, 2017.

In addition, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship offers awards for ethnic minority students and educators up to $4,000 with a due date of February 17th, 2017.  

HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page for details.
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Find my Site Rep
Elk Grove Education Association
9297 Office Park Circle, Suite 100, Elk Grove, CA. 95758

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Elk Grove Education Association · 9297 Office Park Circle, Elk Grove, CA · Elk Grove, CA 95758 · USA

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