Arizona teachers could be fired for talking about “controversial” topics like politics, religion, racism, or LGBTQ rights if a new bill becomes law.
Republican State Representative Mark Finchem has introduced legislation that would ban public and charter school teachers from engaging in “political, ideological or religious” advocacy or discussion with their students.
Educators would be forbidden from discussing any “controversial issue” in class and “endorsing, supporting or opposing any legislative, judicial or executive action.” Teachers would need to complete three hours of mandatory ethics training per year and would have to follow a “code of ethics” drawn up by the Republican-dominated state legislature.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that the bill would also prohibit teachers from “blaming one racial group of students for the ‘suffering and inequities’ experienced by another racial group.”
Finchem says his bill is necessary because teachers should focus more on teaching students how to think for themselves than “indoctrination.”
“If there’s a political agenda behind it, leave it at home,” Finchem told the Arizona Republic. “Simple request.”
But the state’s educators say there’s a reason why Finchem is targeting teachers. After a statewide strike by teachers last year, students joined the #RedForEd social media campaign that highlighted the conditions at state schools. Finchem admits the campaign has played into his decision to file the bill.
The law, however, could be used to target LGBTQ rights as well since the issue is often deemed “controversial” by Republicans. Punishment for breaking the law could be as extreme as terminating a teacher’s employment.
Rachel Johnson, the Arizona Educators United teacher representative at Mansfeld Middle School, told the Daily Star that while she’s already careful about what she says to students about hot button topics, she knows how the real world actually works.
“I teach 13-, 14-year-olds kids,” Johnson said. “They aren’t stupid. They know what’s going on … they bring up issues.”