Even teachers can get suspended now a days, but not for an extravagant reason. A simple costume worn on Halloween is sufficient to remove them from campus on paid leave.
I feel like we are seeing more and more of these types of articles in modern society, articles showing people getting in some financial or authoritative trouble because of something slight they said. In today’s culture we are seeing an alarming amount of people claiming offense to what others are saying and then repercussions coming to those who are saying them. We are approaching an interesting paradigm in society, that being where is the line drawn with the right to free speech and censoring/prosecuting those who do not agree with you? I understand context plays a role as things in one context may not be appropriate in another, however should that be a limiting factor in free speech? Are we truly allowed to say what we want to and present the ideas that we have?
In a recent example of controversy over what is “okay” to say or do, a dozen school teachers and staff members, in Middleton School District, were suspended in the sense that they were forced on paid leave due to a costume they wore on Halloween. These staff members dressed up as “stereotypical” Mexicans and Trump’s wall with the slogan “Make America Great Again” painted on the wall. Photos of these costumes were posted on the school district’s Facebook page and the resulting commotion ensued. People were outraged calling the classroom a “unsafe” environment and one necessitating change. It went so far that the superintendent, Josh Middleton made a public announcement about the incident speaking to the absence of the teachers and that an investigation would be coming. The school is also increasing police presence on the premise, to ensure the safety of the students. There were no statements from the teachers, as to why they dressed up or what their intentions were.
This incident calls into question the right to freedom of speech and representation. In light of the recent events in the US Government’s history there is a very politically charged environment and my guess is that these students are already hearing about all of these issues in their own home. The teachers and staff were probably just trying to add a little light humor to this whole issue. As a result, we see them being censored, with their removal from the campus and paid leave. No statement concerning their intentions was taken from the people involved or a statement from the students, about how they perceived the costume. Indeed, the majority of the outrage comes from the photo on Facebook which when posted allowed for greater outburst, mostly from the parents. School is a place where you can encounter beliefs different from your own and learn to have a conversation about them without resulting to violence or mistrust. That is not the case here. Instead all the blame lands on the teachers and staff and they are removed and then spoken about without giving the offenders a chance to speak up. The parents of the students are the ones in an outrage, but they are not in the classroom 24/7 like the teacher is. What if the students were upset and looking for an answer to what they have been hearing all around them and this was the teachers attempt to bring some help in a really controversial issue.
I will leave you with this final thought and allow you to make your own inference into the matter. In a culture built on dissenting opinions and the unique melting pot that we call the American culture, is there a true limit to what we can say and is censorship the right way to handle a mishap?
For more information on this school and to follow-up on the outcome of the investigation refer to the links below: