As you may have noticed, there is a fairly contentious presidential election going on right now in the United States. And with a contentious election season comes the potential for political discussions to creep into the classroom. Classroom teachers must do their best to limit these kinds of discussions (or completely prohibit them in some cases) and remain politically neutral at the same time.

Political discussions are absolutely appropriate and potentially necessary depending on the nature of the class. A current events class should be discussing the political climate in our country and the effects on our government. Likewise, a civics class can use the current election to discuss the electoral process. A biology class, however, is not an appropriate forum for debating the merits of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Teachers must be careful to keep classroom discussions focused on the issues and goals contained in the curriculum.”

Teachers should also strive to remain as politically neutral as possible during the school day. It is not part of your job description to convince students to tell their parents to vote for a particular candidate. It might not even be appropriate to discuss which candidate you personally support. Even if the overall discussion of the election is appropriate in the context of your classroom at the time, personal leanings can only serve to create issues for with students, parents, administrators and board members.

All of this is to not say, however, that you have to give up all political discussions and opinions when you become a public school employee. The restrictions placed on school employees only apply to the time you are acting within your official capacity as an employee. You may absolutely put a Trump 2020 sign in your yard. Feel free to share 5 Joe Biden memes a day on Facebook, but recognize the district does have the ability to discipline you for speech outside of school if that speech negatively impacts the district’s ability to provide services.

As always if you have any questions please contact the MSTA Legal Services Department at 866-343-6186 or legalservices@msta.org.