Two weeks ago we reported that a well-respected Boston teacher was questioned about her statement to the Bay State Banner. While she was spoken to by her principal, we strongly suspect the directive came from his superiors, inasmuch as we now have heard from others who have suffered the exact treatment (and gotten the same lecture) for failure to follow the directive which is excerpted below, currently appearing in a media-advisory Superintendent’s Circular. (The underlining below appears as it does in the actual circular.)
In order to balance the responsibilities of schools and the need to provide information to the media, all press inquiries about the Boston Public Schools or any individual school, student, staff member, program or initiative are to be directed first to the Communications Office.
Any staff member who is contacted directly by a member of the news media must refer the reporter to the Communications Office, who will work with staff and the media outlet to respond appropriately to the inquiry…”
The other people who were “spoken to” had been quoted in newspaper articles regarding a school closure issue and a school lunch program that lost its salad bar.
One would think that the department would have by now revised its ill-conceived circular that tries to remove First Amendment protections from our members. That would have been the prudent thing to do. But it hasn’t. So far.
The bottom line: Feel free to speak to the media on your own time and on whatever topics you choose — inadequate school budgets, school closures, increased standardized testing, salad bars, lack of recess, poor inclusion practices, inadequate heat or air conditioning, and so on.
The Boston Globe reported on the story, and you may read the district’s response with the same bewilderment as many:
The School Department defended its policy, saying it ‘does not prohibit teachers from speaking to the media….’
But the School Department’s policy indicates that employees need approval from the communications office before speaking with journalists, saying ‘all press inquiries about the Boston Public Schools or any individual school, student, staff member, program or initiative are to be directed first to the Communications Office….’
Memo to the school district: You will lose this fight.
By the way, the article in question — on the inadequacy of school budgets — received more than 450 opens last week. You may want to look at it on the Bay State Banner website, too.
Below you’ll find a list of contacts in the event anyone wishes to reach out to a member of the media: