A Pennsylvania lawmaker has introduced a bill that would prohibit teachers from discussing politics or government in the classroom.
State Rep. Will Tallman (R) introduced the bill last week. The bill would prevent public school teachers from engaging in discussions about the U.S. government or about national politics in their classrooms.
Tallman, who is not seeking re-election, introduced the bill, titled the “Teacher Code of Ethics,” according to the Morning Call.
The bill would effectively prevent teachers from bringing any type of personal political ideology into the classroom, including the endorsement of or opposition to political candidates.
The bill would also stop educators from entering into any discussions about both pending or enacted law, court cases, or executive orders — at any level of the government whatsoever.
Additionally, teachers would be unable to discuss activities that “hamper or impeded” the actions of law enforcement or military recruiters on campuses.
A portion of a memo Tallman sent to his House colleague reads, “Our K-12 school teachers should not be using their classroom time spent on political or ideological indoctrination. Doing so takes time away from instruction in the academic foundation subjects of mathematics, science, English, history, and civics, and prevents our students from receiving a high-quality public education for careers in the global, high-tech economy.”
Teachers who refuse to follow the policy could face punishments like suspension and even lose their teaching licenses.
Tallman, who was a former school board member, said that he drafted the bill because of complaints he’d received about educators bringing their personal politics into the classroom.
The outlet said that legal experts questioned the bill, pondering it as “unconstitutional overreach” that violates academic freedoms.
One such expert is David Hudson, a professor at the Nashville School of Law in Tennessee as well as ombudsman for Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C.
Hudson said, “[The bill] runs roughshod over the cardinal principle of academic freedom. In certain classes, political speech and frank discussion is necessary. I mean social studies class, contemporary issues — you need teachers talking about current events.”
Robert Richards, director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Penn State University, said that teachers have rights if the topic they’re teaching on deals with a lesson.
“In general, schools can control curriculum issues and when teachers are speaking in their classrooms, they are acting as agents of the school rather than for themselves,” Richards explained. “They are usually on safer ground when the speech directly relates to their subject matter. Speaking about legislation … in a social studies or history class may be particularly germane, so a blanket prohibition as such would be highly suspect, and courts would likely invalidate it if enforced against a teacher.”