Sunday, March 29, 2015

Statement from teacher coerced to attend rally

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 29, 2015) --  I was contacted this weekend by veteran Oklahoma teacher Teresa Turner about my post Friday, "School district coercing teacher attendance at political rally alleged." Turner identified herself as the teacher responsible for questioning the coercive actions of her school district that led state officials to issue statements that coercing teachers to attend Monday's political rally at the state Capitol is not legal.

Turner sent the following statement:

"I am a public school teacher in my 23rd year of teaching. Our superintendent had informed me that “The board of education made it clear that certified staff would attend the rally or take leave.” As a conservative Christian, I have a strong value system of right and wrong, and I felt that being coerced to attend the Education Rally on March 30th was neither right nor legal.

"I strongly believe everyone has a right to their own opinion; however, I felt it was a violation of my First Amendment rights to be required to attend a rally that represents views that do not align with my personal beliefs or take a day of personal leave. As a result, I simply did what the administration and board of education wanted teachers to do – I contacted several legislators and expressed my concerns about the current state of education.

"Senator Kyle Loveless asked Attorney General Scott Pruitt for an opinion on the matter, which resulted in the State Department of Education releasing their press release Friday afternoon. I greatly appreciate his help, along with that of AG Pruitt, Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, Senator John Ford, and Representatives Jason Murphy, John Bennett, Josh Cockroft, and many others too numerous to mention in this short statement. I also thank my husband, Russell, for his inspiration and unending support.

"I feel sure that superintendents and schools across Oklahoma will realize that this was merely a legal question, and will not retaliate against any teacher who might hold a view that differs from theirs."

Friday, March 27, 2015

School district coercing teacher attendance at political rally alleged

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 27, 2015) — The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) took swift action today in response to a report that a single school district had incorrectly notified teachers they would receive professional development credit for attending an education rally at the State Capitol.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said OSDE officials contacted the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the school district in question to make it clear that no teacher can be coerced to attend the March 30 rally.

“As soon as we were alerted, we contacted all appropriate parties, including the school district in question, to state plainly that attendance at the rally in no way counts as professional development,” the superintendent said. “No entity should — or is lawfully able to — pressure attendance at the education rally. It is longstanding practice that attendance at such events are strictly voluntary.”

In a March 27 letter to Hofmeister, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt wrote that his office had received inquiries about a district inaccurately telling teachers that their participation in the rally was mandated professional development.
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