An Arlington County School Board member stood by allowing teachers to post politically-suggestive messages in classrooms during a Wednesday interview on a Washington-based radio station.
The signs, posted by teachers, were seen by students at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia. Parents of a student contacted the school board and complained about the political undertones of the signs posted at the school.
“We put a lot of effort into ensuring all of our students feel safe, and supported as well as academically challenged,” Barbara Kanninen, Vice Chair of the Arlington School Board told WMAL. “It’s not a school board decision about approving signs or not approving signs. This came to us because parents asked about it. We have a very clear policy on our teacher conduct. And that is, of course, teachers do have First Amendment rights.”
Kanninen clarified that they do have a policy on political activity which involves teachers not being allowed to endorse a political candidate or political party while in school and using school resources.
The signs say in rainbow colors the following phrases: “Patriots Know: Facts are Not Political. Diversity Strengthens Us. Science Is Real. Women’s Rights Are Human Rights. Justice Is For All. We’re All Immigrants. Kindness Is Everything. We Are Yorktown.”
“The particular comments on the signs are about science and being supportive of all of our students in our school,” she responded.
Kanninen said the board “encourages” the teachers to have “all kinds of signs and posters” in their classrooms but cautioned that people shouldn’t call the signs “inappropriately political.”
When the school board member was asked by radio host Larry O’Connor about the feminist movement origins of the “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” line in the sign, she defended the phrase as “historical” and not necessarily political.
Conservative-leaning students at Yorktown High saw the signs differently.
“When I walked from my seventh period to my eighth period, I saw these posters. I saw what it said and knew at that moment it was a political statement… it was a propaganda poster,” John Piper, a Yorktown student, told WMAL. “Sitting in silence is how these things happen.”
His mother, who had contacted the school board and the radio station, would prefer the school take the signs down.
“Their school needs to be apolitical regardless of the politics of where we live,” Tracy Piper told The Daily Caller. “I am very proud of him and just wanted to help him find his voice.”
John Piper Sr., the father of the Yorktown student, was disturbed by not just “one teacher but instead many teachers were banding together to post them throughout the school. It’s hard to have an apolitical environment in our schools when something like this happens.”
The parents were disappointed with the school board’s response in allowing the teachers to continue to post the signs at the school.
“I feel like they are cherry picking issues,” the father said.
“I saw there was a double standard at the school of what kinds of posters can be on the walls,” the student said. “Clearly represented a liberal set of values. The lack of cooperation from the administration and staff confirmed what I had thought initially. This rhetoric does not belong in what should be an apolitical environment.”
You can listen to the entire interview below.