Fairfield schools work on policy regarding political expression in schools
FAIRFIELD — A year after a spirited presidential election split the country, the school board is working on regulating to what extent faculty and students can express themselves politically.
“There had been questions raised a year ago — nine, ten months ago — and Dr. (Superintendent Toni) Jones had gone to our policy manual looking for guidance on political activities at school, and found we had no policy at all,” school board member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly said at a policy subcommittee meeting Monday.
Among the issues under review are whether or not teachers and staff can use free periods to participate in political activities while at work — the example was given by Maxon-Kennelly, who is a teacher at Greenwich Public Schools, of answering constituent emails during off periods, or corresponding with other Board of Education members — and whether or not students should be able to wear political badges or buttons.
Jessica Gerber, a member of the policy committee, said in the 2015 Board of Education election, the Fairfield Education Association endorsed five candidates, and made buttons with the names of its choice. Hypothetically, a situation might emerge in which children of opposing candidates are arguing over campaign materials.
As the standing Board of Education Policy Subcommittee, board members Maxon-Kennelly, Trisha Pytko and Gerber met to continue work through and develop a draft of new district policy on political activities in school and on school property, along with the schools’ Executive Director of Personnel and Legal Services Colleen Deasy.
“When you’re saying, ‘your mom is better than my mom,’ in the classroom, that’s a problem,” Maxon-Kennelly said.
According to Maxon-Kennelly, the process of reviewing the policy was begun in late September. “There had also been some issues even after the presidential election in November just raising the issue of politics getting contentious and what can happen in our buildings and with our kids and with our staff.”
The policy subcommittee will again discuss, and likely vote to approve, the political activities policy at their Dec. 4 meeting, at which point it would pass to the Board of Education for review at the Dec. 12 meeting.