A parent with a student at Alexander Hamilton High School contacted Parents Defending Education to complain about what he called the “disgusting brainwashing of students with taxpayer dollars.” He attached the photos below. This school is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
In the first photo, an American flag appears to be strewn atop a piece of classroom piece of furniture. Those hanging include the Palestinian flag, the transgender flag, a Black Lives Matter flag and “the modern PRIDE flag.”
The second photo speaks for itself.
We reached out to the communications office of LAUSD and, to their credit, they immediately forwarded our query to the proper school officials. Later the same day, we received the following statement from a Los Angeles Unified spokesperson:
L.A. Unified holds firm its policy that students and adults in both schools and offices should treat all persons equally and respectfully and refrain from the willful or negligent use of slurs against any person on the basis of race, language spoken, color, sex, religion, handicap, national origin, immigration status, age, sexual orientation, or political belief.
Across the nearly 630,000 students and about 30,000 teachers district-wide, individual teachers decorate their rooms in a variety of ways, with some decorations being directly tied to or in support of our district curriculum, while others are inclined to adorn based on their freedom of expression and individuality.
While utilizing decorations in our learning environments, all L.A. Unified teachers are expected to adhere to district policies and to be mindful of our mission to educate children in a classroom that reflects all our policies of inclusion and respectful treatment of individual rights.
Any displays that are determined to be overtly and objectively political or otherwise run afoul of our policies of inclusion and respectful treatment of others will be taken down and will be handled administratively. Nevertheless, not every subjective belief that any one display is “political” can be accommodated in a district as large and diverse as L.A. Unified.
As the second largest school district in the nation, we hold steadfast our responsibility to listen to and consider all our stakeholders’ concerns when navigating complex or sensitive issues.
For more information on some of our L.A. Unified policies of inclusion and respect for individual rights, please visit the following website links:
Board Approves Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action – Timed to Coincide with Black History Month – February 4, 2020
L.A. Unified Motion and Adoption of Celebrating and Affirming Our Students and Families with Pride Month 2017
L.A. Unified – To Enforce the Respectful Treatment of All Persons – BUL-5798.0 Student Health and Human Services – July 16, 2012
Los Angeles school officials appear to misunderstand the role of teachers and the freedom of expression they enjoy while on the clock. The U.S. Supreme Court held in the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.C. 410 (2006) that public employees are not insulated from employer discipline under the First Amendment when they make statements pursuant to their official duties. Teachers speak on behalf of the school district when performing their duties in the classroom and accordingly must comply with school policy on controversial subjects. Brown v. Chicago Board of Education, No. 15-1857 (7th Cir. 2016). When teachers make statements, advocate for particular points of view, and/or post specific items on walls or bulletin boards, they are acting pursuant to their official duties. They do not have unfettered First Amendment rights.
UPDATE: Within 24 hours of publishing this dispatch, the story got national coverage. The district has now confirmed that the posters will be taken down. It appears that the flags will stay up but we will continue to follow the story and update accordingly.