Button, button, who's got the button? Apparently not the members of the Clay County Classroom Teachers' Association.
Last week they were requested by the Clay Community School Corporation and the Clay Community School Board of Trustees to not wear the "Working Without a Contract" buttons during the school day. Reports from parents and students to school board members of teachers wearing the buttons and discussing contract negotiations with students during classtime led to the action.
Superintendent William Schad contacted an attorney from the Indiana School Board Association on behalf of the corporation and the school board before making a formal request of the teachers' association. School Board President Steve Grigsby told The Brazil Times that the school board does appreciate the cooperation and professional attitude of teachers in removal of the buttons.
"The board wants a contract as much as the teachers do," Grigsby said. "Unfortunately teachers' job actions do not increase state or local funding, nor do they put more money in the General Fund. The attention really needs to be towards the state government's role in school funding."
Some teachers feel answering students' questions about the buttons was an educational experience, while others feel their "freedom of speech" has been jeopardized by the request.
"They (the school corporation and board) contacted their lawyer and, by deeming the buttons to be "disruptive to the educational process," have ordered us to not wear them during the school day," Clay County Classroom Teachers' Association President Russ True wrote in an e-mail to The Brazil Times. "Our stance is that the buttons are no more disruptive than a thousand other things that go on every day at school. I guess "freedom of speech" will have to take a back seat for now."
True also wrote that the association's attorney informed the group of their option to force the corporation to prove the buttons were disruptive in court, but he feels the association will not take any legal action on the matter.
"We will wear the buttons outside the regular school day, but not during it," he said.
A crisis team organized by the Clay County Classroom Teachers' Association is considering other options for job actions which can be taken by the group as contract negotiations continue to drag on.
Whether the students or the buttons provoked the classroom discussions is a mute point to Indiana School Board Association's Attorney Julie Slavens. She advised the corporation and school board in the matter. A school corporation can control what topics are taught and discussed during classtime. Slavens said that teachers are usually notified when hired of a corporation's policies regarding topics like religious theory in science classes, political speeches and/or endorsements outside of the class structure and other personal agendas that are considered inappropriate for discussion in a classroom.
"In this age of accountability and emphasis on curriculum, time taken away from instruction is not appropriate. They've been hired to teach, not to talk about how the union is doing with contract negotiations. I don't know how much simpler I can say it," she said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. "The courts have said that a classroom is a closed forum. Children are there to learn, not to discuss contract negotiations."
Clay Community teachers have worked without a contract for more than two years.