“It's very clear the laws we have to follow, the board policies we have to follow, and the level of disruption, what we have to be very careful about is not differentiating between political symbols based on our own beliefs,” said Jim Hinson, the Superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District.
The district is asking teachers to keep politics outside of the classroom.
Since Election Day, emotions have been running high and many people began wearing safety pins as a symbol of solidarity for groups they fear may lose rights and representation under the Trump administration.
The Shawnee Mission School District and teachers union sent out a notice to employees Monday saying the safety pin is a disruption in class, and now some parents, teachers, and students are hoping the district reconsiders.
“Some people are scared because people are being threatened based on their race and religion and things like that,” said Ava Burton, a Shawnee Mission School District student.
“It's not a political statement, it's something that they should personally be able to say that they're allowed to do,” said Abbey Scott, another student.
Some students in the Shawnee Mission School District feel it's wrong to ask teachers to not wear a safety pin, a symbol they feel is not a political statement but simply showing you stand with anyone who feels vulnerable or afraid.
“We think that policy is misguided, that it sends the wrong signal, and that it's vulnerable to legal challenge as well,” said Micah Kubic, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.
The ACLU of Kansas is now getting involved after receiving multiple complaints from the Shawnee Mission School District community.
“From teachers, from parents, from students, and we've had a steady stream of folks since then who are concerned about the issue,” Kubic said.
The district has issued this policy that asks teachers not to wear the safety pin because it`s disruptive.
“There are Supreme Court rulings that say that your right to free speech doesn't end on school property. Until such time as it becomes disruptive, until it makes it impossible for the school to function, and I can't imagine a scenario where wearing a symbol that says, 'you should feel safe, I care about your safety' is somehow disruptive,” Kubic said.
“We know that it's been disruptive, that's all we have to prove. We have that evidence in advance. That's why we've taken action in this regard,” Hinson said.
The district superintendent said they must treat everything that could be viewed as a political statement the same, and some teachers who aren't wearing the safety pin feel it may come across as them not being welcoming to all students.
“That's part of the messaging that was occurring as well, employees saying 'look, it's not right that this is allowed because it singles me out that I'm not welcoming to all students, but I'm not going to wear it because I believe it's political,'” Hinson explained.
The district said it hasn't had any issues at this point. It's just asking all teachers to respect this decision.