A government school district in Indiana is under fire for trying to censor parents’ online comments about the education system, sparking outrage across the political spectrum as well as First Amendment concerns. Violators can be barred from school grounds.
In the highly controversial “Parent Code of Conduct” put out by the North West Hendricks School Corporation, parents are explicitly told that they may not speak out against the district, its schools, or its employees on social media.
“Parents of North West Hendricks Schools Should NOT: … Use Facebook or any other Social Network to make rude/offensive comments towards individual staff members or the school in general,” the document explains.
Parents are also supposedly barred from complaining about the district’s policies. According to the “Code of Conduct,” they must “NOT” “use Facebook or any other Social Network to campaign against or fuel outrage against individual staff members, the school, or policies implemented by the school or district.”
The policy has been in place since 2016, and was updated in May of 2019. But it only recently drew attention as parents have been complaining online and at school board meetings about various policies. In particular, the district came under fire after refusing to fire a teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student, according to a report by local news agency WRTV.
Concerned parents are not having it. “They’re trying to silence us from speaking out against them,” said Tiffani Mathews, an outraged mother of a student in the district. “Social media is the way to get the word out there that, ‘Hey, this isn’t being handled properly.’”
Matthews spoke out during a school board meeting in November. “I don’t feel safe sending my kids to school because I don’t trust anybody in this school system,” she told school board members. The next month, the policy purporting to ban parental complaints in public was handed out at the school board meeting.
The policy has already had a chilling effect and parents are now unwilling to speak out about district policies and other school issues, too, according to parents. “There are a lot of people who are afraid,” Mathews was quoted as saying. “It’s either going to be retaliation against their children or against the parents.”
School officials, though, defended the controversial policy. “NWHSC discourages parents and community members from taking their concerns/grievances to social media,” district “communication consultant” Donna Petraits told the press in a statement. “That practice is generally unproductive and usually leads to rumor and misinformation.”
The far-left ACLU, which sometimes supports the Constitution when its convenient, argued that the policy was “flagrantly” unconstitutional. “The overarching problem is you have the government saying if we don’t like what you’re saying, we can punish you — but the government is not allowed to do that,” said ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk, adding that it sends a bad message to children who should be learning about free speech in civics.
It is bad enough that the government school system is dumbing down and indoctrinating children, as The Newman Report has documented extensively for years. As more and more parents catch on, the outrage will only continue to grow, and parents will inevitably speak out. It seems school officials would prefer to silence the parents in advance.