This past week, Lee County Schools garnered national attention when a Tramway Elementary School teacher required that her students compose letters to Representative Mike Stone. The letters outlined for Mr. Stone a series of concerns related to the impact that the loss of teaching assistants might have on education and school safety and further urged the Representative to increase the amount of educational funds included in the NC budget.
While I believe that even the youngest among us are entitled to free speech as provided us by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, I do not believe that the manipulation and exploitation of our students for the purposes of propagating a specific and biased political position is representative of the spirit of the First Amendment.
Both Superintendent Jeff Moss and School Board Chairman Shawn Williams have expressed support for this type of irresponsible abuse of power within our schools, however, I feel it is important that members of the public recognize that the opinions of these individuals do not represent the the position of the school board as a whole.
As a member of the Lee County Board of Education, I was elected to represent the interests of the people of Lee County in providing a system of education for our youth that operates efficiently, effectively, and in accordance with NC State Law and with the Policies set forth by the Lee County Board of Education.
Under the provisions of Lee County School Board Policy 7300, I believe the following:
- It is inappropriate for education officials at any level to use our students as pawns in the furtherance of any particular political agenda.
- It is inappropriate for Lee County Schools employees at any level to use district time and resources in the furtherance of any particular political agenda.
- It is wholly improper for any employee of Lee County schools to use his or her position or title to represent or support an particular political agenda.
It seems clear that Dr. Moss fails to recognize that his is not a political position and that he, by engaging in political posturing, has violated the trust of school board, the constiuents, and the children of this district. Unfortunately, many of our well-intended school level teachers and staff have been encouraged by administrators to engage in activities that are in violation of Lee County Schools Policies.
As a School Board Member, I would like to personally apologize to Representative Stone and his family for the violation of his trust and his daughter’s rights. In the future, we should make every effort to ensure that the actions of every employee of Lee County Schools are representative of a clear understanding of the purpose of this system of education and that the rights of our students and the trust of our constituents are not violated.
Lee County School Board Policy 7300:
For students to succeed, school employees must approach their responsibilities conscientiously, always remembering that the ultimate responsibility of the school district is to provide students with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education.
All school employees shall:
1. familiarize themselves with; comply with; support; and, when appropriate, enforce board policies, administrative procedures, school rules and applicable laws;
2. place the welfare of students as the first concern of the school district and attend to the safety and welfare of students, including the need to provide appropriate supervision of students;
3. properly use, take care of and protect school property, equipment and materials;
4. demonstrate integrity, respect and commitment to the truth through attitudes, behavior, dress, and communications with others;
5. regularly and promptly attend work;
6. carry out assigned responsibilities in a conscientious manner and maintain efficiency and knowledge of the developments in any relevant field(s) of work;
7. transact all official business with the properly designated officials in the school district and submit required reports promptly at the times specified;
8. work with other staff members to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the district’s schools;
9. refrain from using school employment, contacts and privileges to promote partisan politics, personal or religious views or propaganda of any kind;
10. address or appropriately direct any complaints concerning school employees, the school program or school operations;
11. maintain just and courteous professional relationships with students, parents, staff members and others; and
12. support and encourage good school-community relations in all interactions with students, parents and members of the community, and establish cooperation between the community and the school district.
Also see Lee County Schools Policy Code 5210