Bills targeting political speech by teachers could violate First Amendment

By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Bills seeking to ban all political speech by teachers could run afoul of the First Amendment, critics say.

House Bill 2002, introduced by Oro Valley Republican Rep. Mark Finchem, directs the state Board of Education to create a code of conduct that includes provisions like prohibiting teachers from discussing politics, religion or race. Teachers who violate that code of conduct could be fired.

Another measure introduced by Mesa Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend, House Bill 2015, would prohibit teachers from talking about their political or religious beliefs, and allow parents to sue teachers who don’t follow the law. Those teachers could also be fired from their jobs.

“It appears that there are a number of provisions… that have the potential to chill teachers’ speech,” Arizona American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Steve Kilar said. “It also seems like this might have the effect of chilling certain teaching styles, like the Socratic method, the system of posing a question to students in order to foster critical thinking.”


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