In an attempt to engage students who are easily distracted by smart phones and the like, high school teachers understandably try to bring topics in the news into their classrooms (“ ‘Centrism Is Canceled’: High Schoolers Debate the Impeachment Inquiry,” The New York Times, Oct. 24). But doing so is risky.
In Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of Tipp City Exempted Village School District, the Sixth Circuit held in 2010 that only school boards of education can determine the curriculum. In short, districts hire teacher speech. As a result, when teachers decide on their own to introduce topics that have not been approved, they put themselves in jeopardy. High school teachers cannot claim academic freedom, as college professors can.
This puts high school teachers in a terrible position. They want to make what they teach relevant, but they must be careful not to go beyond what the school district that hires them allows. Although the news story cited above involves social studies teachers, the principle extends to all subject fields. For example, biology teachers need to be cautious in discussing pre-marital sex unless that is in the approved curriculum.
There will always be some brave teachers who decide to violate the Evans-Marshall ruling, but they better be prepared for legal pushback.
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