There are professions where there isn’t a moment when people can take off their work hats. Public officials, first responders and journalists are among those who, regardless whether on the clock or on their own time, their actions and words will be judged by how they earn their paycheck.
Essentially, they surrendered some of their freedoms when they picked their occupations, and rightly so. A police officer who posts racist rants when out of uniform will not be considered a fair arbiter of justice when in it. A news reporter who campaigns for Democratic candidates stains any air of impartiality in what he or she writes.
Teachers have been in a gray area for some time. Their profession calls for them to shape young minds with accurate information, but away from campus, should they be able to say whatever comes to mind on their own time?
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Maroth last week deemed the conduct of a Fort Worth ISD teacher acceptable when she tweeted at President Donald Trump that her school district was full of children from Mexico in the country illegally, and he should do something about it. Maroth found, contrary to Fort Worth ISD’s argument, the teacher did not surrender her First Amendment rights when she signed an employment contract.
She did not, nor should anyone be required to give up their rights simply to be employed. In the examples stated earlier, first responders and others don’t actually surrender their freedoms. Refraining from inflammatory statements just reflects sound judgment not to do or say anything that could call their conduct into question.
The teacher in question, Georgia Clark, acted away from her role as a teacher in attempting to contact the president, believing her actions constituted being a good, law-abiding American. It should not have come at the price of losing her job at Carter-Riverside High School.
If she or another teacher had used their captive audience to go on political, religious or socioeconomic rants at students, the matter would be entirely different. Unless the course calls for discussion of such issues, the classroom is not the place for a teacher to share their personal views.
Away from campus, however, teachers are well within their rights to approach government officials — from the president down to a local council member — with grievances. They should not be punished for exercising their constitutional freedoms.