Shiny, Happy Teachers

It seems the Knox County Board of Education wants only shiny, happy teachers to speak at public meetings.

That’s the implication from a Board policy discussed this week.

Here’s the basic thrust of the policy:

The policy says that an employee may come before the board after they have exhausted the normal chain of command.

The board says they want teachers and other KCS employees to put their concerns in writing, and document each step up the chain of command, so that if the process breaks down, they will know where the break down occurred and be able to address it at that point.

Essentially, an employee must demonstrate, in writing, that they’ve exhausted all other channels before appearing before the Board.

One Board member said they didn’t want the system to look bad because teachers raise concerns on TV.

Board member Karen Carson worried that “bringing concerns up, on TV, is not good for public education”

Perhaps the Board, which has seen some contentious meetings recently, wants to prevent scenes like this:




In any case, the policy certainly appears to be intended to chill discourse.  While citizens who are not teachers are free to complain about policy in public, teachers must have written documentation to justify their appearance.  This type of double standard for speakers at public meetings just might run into some constitutional issues.  If some citizens can speak without a note from the Board Chair and others must have permission based on written evidence, you create two classes of citizens for the purpose of speech.

If public comment is allowed at public meeting, the rules must be uniform for all participants.  It would seem the Knox County Board policy may violate that precept.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done with this policy in coming months.

For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

5 thoughts on “Shiny, Happy Teachers

  1. Amazing! More teachers retired in Knox County this year than ever before. Anyone wonder why? If teachers can’t bring their complaints, observations and advice to public meetings, the value of their citizenship is worth less than mine? Leadership is missing. Why?

  2. As irritating as it might be, contracted employees for public institutions are obligated to help protect their own reputation as well as the institution’s and the processes in place (usually agreed to, and often including a grievance process). The upside: a well documented and contractually correct path to the public input part of a BOE meeting can’t be faulted-just be cautious in your presentation. The downside: if there is a contentious relationship to begin with, there are several steps to survive and potential consequences to navigate. Document EVERYTHING and follow up carefully delivered conversations with emails verifying the context/content/intent. Like “Let me know if I am understanding our earlier conversation correctly…”

  3. This is a highly egregious policy and I’m shocked that it’s been implemented here in Tennessee. TN Teachers already can’t serve as both teachers and board members at the same time, have a weakened union and now…can’t exercise their right to freedom of speech? I don’t often get worked up over education policy but this is wrong, wrong, wrong.

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