Politics and Schools Update: Tim Rehm Gets It

    Even when it's not part of a lesson, there's apparently no law against teachers and other school employees wearing campaign buttons. Cornwall Superintendent Timothy Rehm agrees wholeheartedly that students have a right to wear buttons.

    I knew Tim Rehm for years when he worked in District 14 (Williamsburg) and eventually became principal of PS 196 a few blocks up the road from my school, PS 147 on Bushwick Ave. His dad Bob was a high level official in the district office.

    When I hear the attacks on the pre-mayoral control system, I think of the quality of people like Tim who received accolades as a principal and his school was very well run. He went on to be a deputy Superintendent on Long Island before becoming a Superintendent upstate. He is the kind of man who will never be looked at as a chancellor in the NYC system or any system under mayoral control, which will look everywhere but educators as the solution.

    I'd bet my pension that Cornwall and 95% of the school districts in this country would laugh at the idea of handing their schools over to someone like Joel Klein.

    From the Times Herald-Record
    Political buttons OK for teachers in Hudson Valley
    By Michael Randall

    October 27, 2008

    Ban the campaign buttons?

    Parents will likely see a lot of political play in the region's schools between now and Nov. 4. And while a New York City judge has banned teachers there from wearing campaign buttons, local teachers are unrestricted.

    Here campaign buttons and other political paraphernalia are generally welcomed, especially when they're part of a lesson, like the one taking place this week and next at the Tuxedo Park School.

    Students are mounting a mock campaign with student-made signs for Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama; a debate in which eighth-grade students will play the roles of the major-party candidates; and a vote on Election Day. They'll see how their results compare to the real thing at an assembly on Nov. 7.

    "I wanted the students to understand the significance of (the electoral process)," said Christine McDonald, coordinator of the history department.

    Even when it's not part of a lesson, there's apparently no law against teachers and other school employees wearing campaign buttons.

    Jonathan Burman, a lawyer with the state Education Department, noted state Education Commissioner Richard Mills backed a school board's decision allowing employees to wear buttons supporting candidates, saying they had a free-speech right to do so.

    Burman did add that decision applied to a school election, not a political one.

    Yet earlier this month, a judge upheld New York City's barring of teachers from wearing political campaign buttons.

    While it's acceptable for teachers to post political material on union bulletin boards, or distribute it in their mailboxes, the judge said, the ban on campaign buttons reflects a judgment about the buttons' potential impact, not an attempt to stifle free speech. The union might appeal.

    Can students wear buttons? A booklet issued jointly by the state's School Boards Association and Bar Association says students have a right to wear buttons as long as they don't "substantially interfere" with the educational process or the rights of others.

    Local school officials said the issue seldom comes up.

    Cornwall Superintendent
    Timothy Rehm agrees wholeheartedly that students have a right to wear buttons.

    As for teachers, Cornwall has no official policy for staff, and Rehm said it's left to building principals to deal with the matter as needed.

    Rehm said teachers should not "bring political views into the classroom," although using buttons or signs in a lesson is OK.

    At Newburgh Free Academy, Principal Peter Copeletti said complaints about buttons never arise, but the school tries to ensure students get a balanced message on politics in the classroom.

    "In our social studies classes, and also our journalism classes, we make sure we portray both sides of the picture," he said.

    New York State United Teachers spokesman Carl Korn teachers should be given credit for knowing when to politick and when not to politick.

    "I think teachers know how to balance their roles," he said.

    mrandall@th-record.com


    Eighth-grader Emma Zahren-Newman exercises free speech at Tuxedo Park School on Friday.

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Politics and Schools Update: Tim Rehm Gets It


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