ACLU of Kansas sends letter to Shawnee Mission superintendent urging reversal on policy banning teachers wearing safety pins

Superintendent Jim Hinson .
Superintendent Jim Hinson .

Saying that the organization has been contacted by dozens of area residents in the past few days, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on Tuesday issued a letter to Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson urging him to rescind the district’s prohibition on teachers wearing safety pins in the classroom.

“The ACLU of Kansas strongly urges you to reconsider the prohibition on staff wearing safety pins,” wrote Executive Director Micah Kubic. “The school district’s current policy sends students a clear signal that not all students are valued or safe at school, undermines attempts to build community, and is vulnerable to a legal challenge.”

The letter comes as pushback against the district policy, which was communicated to district staff last Thursday and Friday, grows. The school district and the National Education Association — Shawnee Mission, issued a joint statement yesterday suggesting that the prohibition on safety pins is in line with longstanding district policy meant to prevent disruptive political speech in the classroom. In his letter, Kubic took issue with the suggestion that safety pins should be considered either political or disruptive:

Although wearing the pin is itself a quiet statement of moral principle, just as the wearing of black arm bands during the Vietnam War was a quiet statement, the principle at stake is of pressing importance. What is at stake is whether all members of the Shawnee Mission School District community—and the broader American community—can be reassured that they are, in fact, a part of the community. What is at stake is whether it is “political” or “disruptive” to declare that vulnerable people should not be attacked or bullied, and that someone will be on their side. What is at stake is whether people can be prohibited from taking a stand against racism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia.

ACLU of Kansas Chief Counsel and Legal Director Doug Bonney told the Shawnee Mission Post Tuesday morning the organization would be exploring potential litigation on the matter.

The full letter to Hinson is embedded below:

https://dfv6pkw99pxmo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/22123124/aclu_letter_on_safety_pin_policy_-_11-22-16.pdf