Regardless Of Where You Stand On The Issues ... We Won't Stand For Politics In Our Schools

The Story Of Politics In Our Schools

Last year our schools bled red--Red For Ed.  This coalition of teachers, education support professionals and administrators was the driving force behind the six-day walkout and the closing of our entire district school system and some charter schools.  


Leading up to and following the walkout, it was clear that Red For Ed was in the driver’s seat. The group has liaisons at each school and well-structured teams that have essentially been allowed to conduct their efforts freely in our schools  Many teachers and staff wore Red For Ed attire, t-shirts with slogans like "we are worth more" and organized Wednesday wear red campaigns at our schools. They passed out literature and used our schools as sites for walk ins and other events which parents and students were encouraged to participate. They even used our schools as voting sites as to whether or not they would walkout. Many school Facebook pages were full of Red For Ed related posts.  


No one stopped them. 


After the walkout many parents started to question the Red For Ed movement and if they were politically motivated. The group claims to be “nonpartisan” but that was questioned as some of their leaders have been openly tied to socialism groups and the Democratic Party. Even after the walkout it became clear that Red For Ed was not done as they prepared to start petitioning to get a proposition on the ballot entitled Invest In Education asking for more money for teacher/staff raises and school funding. 


Parent groups such as Purple For Parents began putting pressure on schools and the district to admit that teachers and employees engaging in and promoting Red For Ed on our school campuses could be a violation of an Arizona statute (ARS 15-511) that prohibits the use of school district or charter school resources or employees from influencing the outcome of elections. Not everyone agreed with Red For Ed or their efforts, including many teachers who didn’t want to walk out, but our schools seemed to be bleeding red. Our students didn’t need to be subjected to that. 


Finally in May, Gilbert Superintendent Shane McCord issued a memo to school staff indicating that the wearing of Red For Ed shirts was “distracting” from the education process and may be in violation of ARS 15-511. “I am not in a position to know whether A.R.S. §15-511 is applicable to any particular employee at this time. However, I am not basing my direction regarding dress code on that law. Rather, I believe that it is in the best interest of students and our overall educational mission to avoid potential or actual conflicts, discomfort or other negative outcomes and instead, focus on student instruction and professional responsibilities.”


So where does that leave us now? Red For Ed supporters spent their summer gathering signatures to get the Invest In Education proposition on the ballot. Now that they are clearly tied to a proposition, there is no question that any efforts on school grounds regarding Red For Ed or Invest In Ed clearly violate ARS 15-511. Going into an election season and the start of a new school year, we feel it is our duty to remind our Superintendent, School Board, administrators and the supporters of these efforts of the professional responsibilities they are required to uphold and the potential legal ramifications of violating ARS 15-511.    


Regardless of where you stand on the issue--politics has NO place in our schools. What should be a united front to help solve our education crisis has turned into a political war and has created a division among teachers, parents, taxpayers and others. Our schools and classrooms do not need to be political battlegrounds and we will fight to keep them nonpartisan for the benefit of our children. Everyone has the right to their own political beliefs but expressing these beliefs belongs outside of our schools. Bringing them on campus is unfair to our students, unprofessional and most of all-- is against the law.  

ARS 15-511

Learn more about ARS 15-511: Use of school district or charter school resources or employees to influence elections; prohibition; civil penalty; definitions. 

What We Are Doing About It

Addressed The School Board

On July 31, 2018 we addressed the Gilbert School District Governing Board and Superintendent asking them to set the stage for no politics in schools by issuing a reminder to all employees.  They did! Thank you Gilbert! Read the memo.

Sent Memo To All Principals

We took matters into our own hands to set the expectation that we will not tolerate any politics in our schools. We sent a memo to every district school principal on August 2, 2018.  Read the letter

Resources To Report Activity

If you see political activity happening on any school campus we encourage you to report it. See below for suggestions on how to do so. Reports can even be made anonymously here on this page.  Check out our violation guide for more info. 

Get Updates

Join Educate Gilbert on Facebook so you can get updates on our efforts on this issue. 

Accountability From Schools

Show your support and request that our schools be nonpartisan. Send a letter to your school principal, School Board and Superintendent. board@gilbertschools.net  shane.mccord@gilbertschools.net.

Resources

How to Watch For and Report Violations-Check Out This Guide

ARS 15-511-State Statute

District Board Policies That May Be Related to Political Activity

See How the AZ School Boards Association Advises Schools on ARS 15-511 

Activity To Watch For

Employee Rights

School employees may exercise their First Amendment rights and engage in political action when they are acting as a private citizen, NOT while they are being paid by the district/charter to perform their assigned duties.  They may not engage in political efforts while on school grounds, while in any official school capacity/role and may not use their position or school resources to do so. Teachers, even Board Members can do what they want on their own personal time as long as they follow these guidelines.    

T-Shirts & Attire

Employees are prohibited from wearing Red for Ed branded shirts or gear on school grounds which may include hats, pins, wristbands or stickers. School dress code policy prohibits shirts with any logos or advertising with the exception of standard name brands of the manufacturer and the school’s own logo wear. That means that any graphic shirts, even if they don't say Red For Ed, are prohibited. Last year teachers wore red on Wednesdays. While they are not prohibited from wearing a solid color, if it becomes excessive it can be perceived as a disruption to the school environment.

Social Media/Websites

Employees are prohibited from using school equipment/technology to post messages on social media that endorse or promote a cause, political position or candidate.  Any social media messages posted by a school employee, no matter if it is on their personal time and not using school technology, may be questionable if it relates to their position as a teacher/employee. Employees are prohibited from using their school email addresses (@gilbertschools.net) in any political efforts. Any school sponsored website or official social media pages may not post information related to any political activities in efforts to influence the outcome of an election.   

Political Propaganda

Political circulars, petitions or candidate postcards or flyers may not be posted or distributed in schools. Employees are prohibited from having any political propaganda in their classrooms. Any personal items brought on school property that advertise a political position and are in plain view of students/employees may also be considered a violation. Employees’ personal vehicles may have bumper stickers but if it becomes excessive it can be perceived as a disruption to the school environment.

School Walk-Ins

 Teachers or employees may try to organize walk-ins where they meet off campus before school begins and walk to school in solidarity promoting a cause or political position.  If an organized walk-in allows individuals or groups to have a time or audience on school property it may be considered that the school is opening up a forum for that to occur and may be a violation. If they have any political signs, materials or attire on campus or use school resources to organize and/or promote any such efforts it may be considered a violation.  

Use Of School Resources

School facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, expenditure of monies and computer hardware and software may be used in any efforts on behalf of a candidate, proposition or political stance. No school funds should be spent in any efforts to influence the outcome of an election. The collection of any funds for political efforts is prohibited on school property.  

Candidate Flyers

Flyers or information on any political candidates or ballot propositions should not be distributed on school property by anyone.  If you are on school property at an event and find political information being passed out or put on car windshields, report this behavior to your school principal. Candidates or their supporters are NOT permitted to campaign on school grounds. It happened at Meet the Teacher Night on many campuses and will likely happen again unless it is reported.

Parent Organizations

Parent teacher organizations (PTO’s) in general should not participate in any political efforts. Most of these organizations have published bylaws that prevent them from doing so. If so, then individual parents can speak in favor of or against a school funding measure, ballot proposition or school board candidate, but the parent group as an organization isn’t allowed to take sides. If the group is recognized as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization then it is required to follow IRS rules which prohibit political activity.  Doing so may jeopardize their 501(c)(3) status.

Student Involvement

Students may not be given written materials on any political positions or be asked to write about them in any assignment. Teachers should not engage in any conversations with students about any political efforts or positions. Teachers may teach ABOUT politics but they may not engage IN politics while performing in the role of a teacher.  

Employee Discrimination

Any teacher or school employee who feels that they are being treated differently because of their support or lack of support or involvement in any political efforts should report this behavior. This may include treatment from a superior, manager or co-worker. 

Parent/Student Discrimination

Any student or parent who feels that they are being treated differently because of their support or lack of support or involvement in any political efforts should report this behavior. This may include any behavior they are subject to in relation to any school sponsored club, organization or event. 

Save Our Schools

Save Our Schools (SOS) is a political action group that involves many educators who collected signatures for and publicly oppose Proposition 305, the expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts or state tax dollars for parents who opt out of the public school system. Any efforts tied to SOS on school campuses is a violation of ARS 15-511.   

Employees Wear Vests To Show Political Stance

Are Our Schools Becoming A Playground For Politics?

On Friday , August 11 employees showed up at our schools wearing vests to show their support for the Invest In Education ballot proposition.


Arizona Educators United (AEU) publicly promoted the wearing of vests all over social media prior to the event. It would be the first of several Fridays encouraging employees to wear vests to school. 


By Friday afternoon social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were flooded with pictures of employees showing off their vests prominently on our school campuses.  In some of these photos employees were even wearing Invest In Ed and Red For Ed pins.  


Between the pre-promotion of the event, the feedback witnessed on social media and the many parents who reported vests worn on their campuses, we feel there is ample evidence connecting the vests to Invest In Ed and a clear intent on behalf of the participating employees to communicate a political message on school grounds.


Why This Activity Is Prohibited?

  • Showing support for a ballot proposition on school grounds is a violation of ARS 15-511.  
  • The vests captured the attention of some parents who asked employees why they were wearing them. It prompted responses from some that they were in support of Invest In Ed which is a clear violation of ARS 15-511. 
  • The display of vests was also a distraction from the school’s educational program. Some of the vests worn were construction type vests which is not an appearance that reflects their position and could be considered a violation of school dress code policy. 
  • Many photos shared online were posted during school hours and district policy states that employees are responsible for the content of their posting on any form of technology through any form of communication. The policy also states that campaigning and other election activities must be done during off-duty hours when not working in an official district capacity or using district provided technology or equipment. 

TAKING ACTION

This is how some employees dressed for school on Aug. 11 wearing vests to show their support for the Invest In Education ballot proposition. Do these look like professionals to you? Is this appropriate work attire? Is this a distraction to the school environment? What kind of message does this send to students? 

 

That same day a leader of Red For Ed posted this on Facebook. “What a wonderful day to use quiet dissent against our state government by wearing vests to show how we can do better for our students. Good job Arizona! You looked good out there!” 


We took action and issued a letter (notice of concern) to all Gilbert District School Principals as well as the Superintendent and Governing School Board. Parents in other school districts are following in these efforts. If vests are worn again we will record and document every instance and will report it to the Attorney General for violation of ARS 15-511. 


How To File A Complaint

Get Proof

You will need proof to substantiate your complaint. A photo, screen shot, copy of email or flyer can be used.  Take note of the day, time, location and name(s) of anyone involved.

Send Email

Send an email to your school principal outlining your complaint. Be sure to include any proof. See contact info for the schools below. Please copy educategilbert@yahoo.com on your complaint.

Follow Up

If you have not received a response from your school principal within 48-72 hours, contact them again by phone. If they continue to not respond or if the same violation occurs, contact us so we can help you escalate it to the next level.

Resources For Reporting Violations

No parent or employee should ever have to be put in the position to report any violations by a co-worker, educator, let alone your own child’s teacher.  The only way to make the behavior/activity stop is to report it. We are here to help you and offer resources for reporting violations.


GUIDE-Check out this guide for more information on reporting violations.


TRACKING--If you file a complaint, please be sure to copy educategilbert@yahoo.com on it so we can keep track of it. We want to have a record of what is happening in Gilbert.

ANONYMOUS- You can submit violations to us anonymously through the form below.  We may follow up and report these for you. 

RESOLUTION- If you do not get a response from your school principal then we can help you escalate it to the next level which may be the Superintendent, Charter Holder, School Board, Arizona Department of Education and the Attorney General.

OUTSIDE GILBERT- Are you concerned about political activity happening in your school but it is not in Gilbert? ARS 15-511 is a statewide statute. Follow the same procedures and report any violations to your school principal. Contact us if you need help finding resources/others in your area that may assist in your efforts.

Contact Us

File a complaint, share your story

If you're submitting an anonymous complaint please include as much info as possible so we can follow up. If you can, please include your contact info in case we have questions (we will keep it strictly confidential).  Please email copies of any proof you have (photos, etc.) to educategilbert@yahoo.com. Any info/stories submitted will not be shared publicly or will not be followed up on without your permission. We reserve the right to publicly share any anonymously submitted stories/messages.

Disclaimers

The list of prohibited activities on this page is just a set of guidelines, not a guarantee, of what may be a potential violation of ARS 15-511 or of a school policy. It is the duty of the school administration, Attorney General or a court of law to determine what is a violation or not. We are not lawyers or able to provide any legal counsel on any matters pertaining to ARS 15-511 or any other local, state or federal laws. If you have legal questions or concerns, please consult with an appropriate professional.