Philadelphia School District Considering ‘Gag Order’ To Prevent Employees From Talking To Media

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Chrissy Clark Contributor
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The Philadelphia School District is considering implementing a policy that would prohibit employees from talking to the media unless they receive a staff sign-off, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The proposed media relations policy would be updated to read, “staff members shall not give school information or interviews requested by news media representatives without prior approval of the Office of Communications,” the Inquirer reported. Under the new policy, employees cannot share photographs taken inside school buildings either.

Philadelphia School District’s current policy encourages employees to seek permission before responding to media requests, but employees are currently allowed to seek media coverage.

Monica Lewis, a district spokeswoman, told the Inquirer that the new proposal is a “standard operating procedure for organizations everywhere.” However, Frank LoMonte, a law professor at the University of Florida, said that the policy could chill the ability of teachers to bring concerns about their workplace to light.

School board member Mallory Fix Lopez said that the policy is a “gag order” and makes it seem like the district is “micromanaging” and “distrusting” staff. (RELATED: Arizona School Board, Police Coordinated To Spy On, Arrest Concerned Parents)

The district’s union representatives have echoed Fix Lopez’s fears and dubbed the proposal as “authoritarian.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said that the proposal is aimed at curbing whistleblowers.

“The authoritarian proposal is an abhorrent attempt to cover up concerns that are rightfully raised by members who are advocating for the working and learning conditions that all of our staff and children deserve,” Jordan said.

While the union has taken a strong stance on encouraging open dialogue between its members and the media over issues such as understaffing and “toxic school buildings,” leaking curriculum and taking pictures of inappropriate books in school libraries has become increasingly commonplace among teachers who disagree with the teaching of critical race theory-inspired curricula.

Other school districts have crafted similar speech codes as well. Loudoun County School District weighed a more stringent speech code that would have prohibited employees from criticizing the district’s equity plan. After facing backlash from the local teacher union, the Loudoun County school board revised its speech policy.