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Bill to keep politics out of Maine schools gains support among parents, but some teachers oppose

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AUGUSTA – Rep. Larry Lockman does not want Maine’s public school teachers to push their political ideology on their students, so he has introduced a bill that would allow teachers to be punished if they push their political ideology in the classroom.

The bill, titled “Resolve, Directing the State Board of Education To Adopt Rules Prohibiting Teachers in Public Schools from Engaging in Political, Ideological or Religious Advocacy in the Classroom” will have a public hearing on Thursday, February 21st before the Legislature’s Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.

Rep. Lockman says the attention the bill has garnered in the media so far has triggered an outpouring of support from across the state.

He says that parents he is hearing from are very concerned about political indoctrination of their children in the classroom, “Parents are thanking me for sponsoring the bill, and telling me that Maine has a real problem with teachers pushing partisan politics in the classroom. It’s happening across the state, and it needs to stop,” said Rep. Lockman.

The bill Rep. Lockman is introducing prohibits teachers from endorsing candidates for political office or advocating for or against pending legislation. It also requires teachers to introduce materials representing “both sides” of controversial issues and to present them in a fair minded, non-partisan manner.

Lockman’s proposal also sets restrictions on teachers who try to impede military recruiters from talking to students, and a few other points.

The bill directs the Maine State Board of Education to adopt substantive rules to address the issue, including regular training for teachers.

Some public school teachers and administrators were quick to claim the mantle of the First Amendment to oppose Lockman’s bill, however.

Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana cited the First Amendment in opposing Lockman’s bill while retweeting a Casco Bay High School teacher:

But in several online primers and statements, the ACLU says that teachers do not retain their First Amendment rights in their most robust form inside the classroom, citing at least one example that is also in Rep. Lockman’s bill as a scenario where a teacher would not be protected by the First Amendment.

Rep. Lockman says he hopes that parents from across Maine will make their voices heard in the public hearing, and that if his bill passes, classrooms will be more fair, more focused and give both sides of important issues a fair hearing.

Lockman says if parents want to share their thoughts with the Legislature’s Education Committee before the public hearing, they can email their thoughts to: EDU@legislature.maine.gov where the Education Committee clerk will provide their testimony to the committee members.

The bill also has several cosponsors:

Rep. Amy Arata of New Gloucester
Rep. Richard Bradstreet of Vassalboro
Rep. Richard Campbell of Orrington
Sen. Stacey Guerin of Penobscot County
Rep. Beth O’Connor of Berwick
Rep. Michael Perkins of Oakland

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