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Friday, July 11, 2014

District reminder to Wichita teachers: No protests during work hours

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle

Wichita teachers cannot protest school closings or other proposed boundary changes during work hours and are being discouraged from doing so on social media, according to a directive from district leaders.

“It is important to remember that as principal, faculty, support staff of a school, my job, is to educate students, not draw boundaries,” says the “Tips for Schools” handout distributed via e-mail to employees.

“Our school team must remain focused on providing the best quality educational opportunity for our students.”

The directive, distributed as part of the district’s ongoing boundary talks, highlights “appropriate activities on school property or during the work day.”

It says teachers may incorporate the boundary-change process into class curriculum “in a balanced and objective view of the process district-wide.”

Employees and students also can wear buttons or shirts supporting a specific viewpoint “as long as it is not disruptive.”

School employees cannot use school web pages to show support or objection to a boundary proposal; rallies, events or yard signs are not allowed on school property.

In addition, “Use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to support or oppose the boundary discussion is discouraged,” the e-mail says. “Social media can be misconstrued by parents or students, resulting in misunderstandings.”

District officials said the policy reminder was sent to employees in November, as discussions around specific boundary proposals began to surface.

"It was to clear up questions staff had about what they could or couldn't do during work hours," said district spokeswoman Susan Arensman. "We hand out similar information during election periods."

The Wichita district is redrawing attendance boundaries to open five new schools this fall and to address growth and overcrowding in some schools.

Superintendent John Allison’s proposal suggests closing four elementary schools — Bryant, Emerson, Lincoln and Mueller — as a cost-cutting measure. He also has proposed closing Northeast Magnet High School and moving the program to a new school being built in Bel Aire.

Parents and others plan to protest the closings outside tonight’s school board meeting.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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