June 23, 2020 – Expressing our political beliefs is one of our most cherished rights protected by the First Amendment.
But as we enter into an increasingly passionate public debate atmosphere – particularly on social media – many have reached out to us about whether school district employees can express their personal political viewpoints.
There are both state and district policies that guide how educators and school district employees conduct themselves outside of work, particularly in expressing political viewpoints. We thought this would be great to explore because it’s important for our community to know how to distinguish between speech that violates policy and speech that does not.
To help understand this issue, I did some research with our Office of Equity and Inclusion/Professional Standards. I learned that Board Policy 6.85 governs political activity for employees. In essence, the policy says:
District staff CAN:
- Volunteer with campaigns outside of work.
- Vote and share opinions on a political topic or candidate.
- Wear campaign attire outside of work.
- Display bumper stickers for causes, except when the use of your vehicle is required for employment or you receive mileage reimbursement.
District staff CANNOT:
- Campaign while on duty or during working hours.
- Wear campaign attire at the office or workplace.
- Request donations; invite someone to volunteer for a political candidate, party, or cause; or take an active part in campaign management while at work or wearing a DCPS-issued uniform. (Because while wearing a uniform, it’s easier to imply that you’re speaking on behalf of the district.)
- Use any DCPS-issued property for any political purpose other than official job-related functions.
The district also has these expectations regarding social media use:
- Any content or communication generated either by you or a student that would be inappropriate in the classroom should also be considered inappropriate when shared via social media.
- Content should not be graphic or abusive. It shouldn’t promote or show excessive or irresponsible use of alcohol, drugs, or any activity illegal to students. The key here is that content should not be malicious or reckless.
- Employees should not make any derogatory statements about colleagues, students, or Duval County Public Schools. Thoughtfully consider your rights and responsibilities prior to posting.
At no time should school employees claim to be speaking or issuing opinions on behalf of Duval County Public Schools, except with prior consent from the appropriate supervisor. In instances where there could be confusion, they must add a disclaimer stating their views and content are exclusively their own and not representative of Duval County Public Schools.
Our next Duval Dialogue we’ll discuss what you as a parent can do to report concerns. Remember to keep the conversation going by sharing this information with others. For any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.