Free Speech Guaranteed — Except When You Disagree with Us

by James A. Bacon

The Loudoun County School Board expects public school employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner. A draft policy for professional conduct contains all the usual things one would expect. Teachers and other employees should treat students and peers with dignity, respect and civility. They should not bully people, consume alcohol or drugs in the workplace, use racial slurs or insults, or engage in inappropriate or sexual relations with students.

But the proposed policy, which the board is scheduled to vote on Oct. 12, contains something extra. It would curtail what school employees can say outside of school. Specifically, it would prohibit anyone from making speeches, social media posts or any other “telephonic or electronic communication” that is “not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices.”

In other words, if you are a public school employee who disagrees with the leftist social-justice agenda of the Loudoun County Public School system, shut up or face the consequences.

The draft professional-conduct policy is explicit about what it is trying to accomplish. States the draft (my highlight):

The Loudoun County School Board is committed to an equitable and inclusive work and educational environment for employees and students. As outlined in the Superintendent’s Statement on Equity, Loudoun County Public Schools reject racist and other racially motivated behavior and language, recognizing that it encourages discrimination, hatred, oppression, and violence. Employees are expected to support the school division’s commitment to action-oriented practices through the performance of their job duties, as the Division engages in the disruption and dismantling of white supremacy, systemic racism, and language and actions motivated by race, religion, country of origin, gender identify, sexual orientation, and/or ability.

Behavior that will not be tolerated includes but is not limited to discriminatory statements, the use of racial insults or slurs, or:

Any comments or actions that are not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices, and which impact an individual’s ability to perform their job responsibilities or create a breach in the trust bestowed upon them as an employee of the school division. This included on-campus and off-campus speech, social media posts, and any other telephonic or electronic communication.

Moreover, states the draft policy, employees are … encouraged to to report violations of LCPS’s commitment to “equitable treatment” of students and staff to their immediate supervisor or principal.

Apparently, it did occur to the drafters of this proposed policy that some provisions might infringe upon employees’ right to free speech. “Nothing in this policy or any other policy shall be interpreted as abridging an employee’s First Amendment right to engage in protected speech,” the draft says. But then it creates a massive loophole. The right to free speech does not apply “on matters of public concern [that] may be outweighed by the school division’s interest in … achieving consistent application of the Board’s and Superintendent’s stated mission, goal, policies and directives, including protected class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism.”

In other words, nothing shall abridge your right to free speech — unless you express disagreement with the School Board’s leftist social-policy agenda.

This document is so grievously flawed that I cannot imagine the Loudoun County School Board will approve it. If the board, in a fit of madness does adopt this policy, surely the free-speech provisions would never survive a legal challenge. But the fact that such a document could be drafted tells us a lot about the people running the Loudoun County school system. In their zeal to “root out systemic racism,” they’re perfectly willing to root out traditional American liberties as well.

These people are dangerous, and they are taking over.

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16 responses to “Free Speech Guaranteed — Except When You Disagree with Us

  1. So the Lawn at UVa is in Loudoun County?

    • You don’t think it works this way almost everywhere now? Plenty of private companies will discipline or fire employees over stuff they write on social media, especially if they are fowling their own nest. If the employee personnel policies are worded carefully, the employees cannot hide behind the First Amendment. People on both the right and the left are ready to spring into action and scream about anything they see, demanding blood. The Age of Outrage. Hell, this blog has seen the most readership in its history as the wave of outrage washes over some silly UVA undergrad. Which way do you lean, Jim, absolute free speech or not?

      • Only after I retired did I feel I had semi-full freedom-of-speech license. In my adult life, I had times when I felt I could speak out freely (usually on eco-matters) other times I either felt it was not appropriate myself, or I felt uncomfortable, did not have a license for speaking out. So I probably did not write anything on BR until retirement.

        Definitely there was a period in the 80-90’s when there was more appreciation of different opinions/open speech/tolerance/working together. Social media and/or extreme divisiveness/intolerance have changed that. Not sure which came first, the chicken, or the egg.

      • Free speech protections do not apply to private companies. It is different with government, which cannot sanction speech (of course, there are exceptions, as there are with all rights). Obviously, this draft policy was written by a staff member too caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment and in her own rhetoric. I doubt it would survive vetting by the School Board attorney. If it does and gets to the consideration stage, I hope the ACLU comes down hard on it (at least the part about off-campus speech and social media posts).

      • Google “Raytheon 21 SLAPP”. Better use Duckduckgo. Google may have buried it.

      • “If the employee personnel policies are worded carefully, the employees cannot hide behind the First Amendment. ”

        You are quite correct. However, do you think the language in this particular proposed policy is carefully worded?

        It looks pretty ham-handed to me.

    • There is a difference between requiring people to adhere to certain behavioral standards in a specific place for specific reasons, and issuing a blanket denial of their rights.

  2. Hypocrisy. You backed henrico not hiring a woman for what she put on Facebook.

    • Not hiring someone is different from “not tolerating” (if being fired is what that means) off-campus speech and social media posts that “are not in alignment with the school division’s commitment….”

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Superintendent Williams reminds me of the character “Landru” from the Star Trek episode “Return of the Archons”. In the good doctors quest for a school of equity, antiracism, and tranquility he is forging a soul less cage that will stifle creativity, ingenuity, and the questioning of authority.

    “I am Landru. You have come to a world without hate, without fear, without conflict. No war, no disease, no crime. None of the ancient evils. Landru seeks tranquillity. Peace for all. The universal good. You will be absorbed. Your individuality will merge into the unity of the good, and in your submergence into the common being of the Body, you will find contentment and fulfillment. You will experience the absolute good.”

  4. The thousand-year reign of the HR staffer continues apace. Let us rejoice!

  5. How many companies, and even Govt agencies would tolerate public statements from employees that question their mission or policies?

    This is a “First Amendment Issue” now and not before?


    Does anyone here think that ANY public school employee, ANY private school employee could go on social media and opposed the policies of their employer?

    This is a problem with the partisans these days “Outrage”!


  6. “…as the Division engages in the disruption and dismantling of white supremacy, systemic racism”…

    Now there is a phrase I never thought I’d see in a personnel policy.

    Again I will ask: If white supremacy and systemic racism are so rampant in the Loudoun County Schools as to need “disruption” and “dismantling”, whose fault is it? If it is as bad as they say it is then the responsibility lies with the people who run the school system – and the entire School Board and upper level Administration of the school system should be forced to resign in disgrace.

    If, however, they are engaging in this extreme hyperbole as some sort of bizarre game of white-guilt-transference and virtue-signaling one-upmanship , then I think they need to tone it down a bit. The violent language they have chosen to use here cannot bring about anything positive.

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