FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE for April 30, 2013
CONTACT: JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director, Grassroots America – We the People
Cell: 903-360-2858 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Grassroots America Releases Letter Disclosed by Tyler ISD Employees
TX AFT Voices Concerns about Free Speech, Pressure on Teachers & Student Conduct
Tyler, TX – In a continuing effort to reveal serious issues important to teachers and employees of Tyler ISD, Grassroots America released to local media a letter they recently received from Tyler ISD employees. The letter from the Texas Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (TX AFT) is dated May 9, 2012, and is addressed to Dr. Randy Reid, former Tyler ISD Superintendent.
The letter communicates three concerns brought to the attention of the TX AFT by Tyler ISD employees after they were asked to sign an Employee Responsible Use Commitment form. [TX AFT letter ]
Concern #1: Employees expressed alarm the District would attempt to gain control over their personal online activities, including activity at their homes. The TX AFT representative reminds Reid: “The First Amendment gives employees the right to discuss issues of public concern involving their employment in any way they choose including social media websites.” The TX AFT representative reminded the superintendent: “their constitutional rights afford them the right to voice their opinions.” We agree.
Concern #2: Employees expressed opposition to the District’s requirement that teachers “continuously monitor” the classroom online activities of students. The TX AFT representative states, “…it is impossible to monitor 35-40 students’ online activities at the same time. This statement is clearly setting teachers up for failure and is impossible to achieve.” We agree.
Concern #3: Employees expressed through their TX AFT representative strong opposition to Tyler ISD administrators being the sole qualifier of what defines inappropriate conduct. The letter declares, “What may be inappropriate to one administrator may not be to another. This statement is vague to the employees and leaves excessive power in the hands of administrators.” We agree.
Grassroots America’s Executive Director JoAnn Fleming remarked, “We are deeply concerned about the growing number of teachers leaving Tyler ISD to work in other districts for less pay or retiring early. Teachers are afraid to speak up about internal issues regarding discipline, academics, and curriculum. First, several retired teachers reached out to us. Now, a few brave current employees are reaching out. They simply want to be heard, and they deserve to be heard. Teachers know what ails the Tyler School District, and we believe they know how to make the District better.
We are releasing this letter because the employees who sent the letter to us still believe their First Amendment rights are restricted; believe they are in many ways set up for failure; and believe administrators wield excessive and oppressive power over the teachers. We think this letter makes it clear their concerns are very real.”