Opponents protest, calling the new policy a form of censorship
The Central Bucks School Board (CBSB) in Pennsylvania has approved a new policy that prohibits teachers from expressing social or political opinions in the classroom. The new policy bans the display of Pride flags, Black Lives Matter signs, MAGA hats and any other items that could be considered politically influenced.
Policy 321, “Partisan, Political or Social Policy Advocacy Activities” passed in a 6-3 vote on Jan. 10 after the Board listened to two hours worth of public comments, both from those for and against the decision.
“The conversation we had at the policy meeting was hot,” Board Member Tabitha Dell’Angelo said. “I sincerely hope my fellow board members listen with an open heart…We should be teaching how to think, not what to think.”
The original 2018 version of Policy 321 restricted teachers from participating in political events during school hours. The updated version, which further restrains teacher’s expression, has many people concerned about censorship and LGBTQ safety and erasure.
“This is a policy that hurts LGBTQ+ students when they are at their most vulnerable. It tells students that their identities should not be discussed in schools,” one student said during the Board meeting. “Over the years, we have seen countless policies and directives from Central Bucks schools that target queer students. Our district name is splattered in headlines time and time again.”
In July 2022, CBSB was under fire for a library book policy that banned certain books for “inappropriate” or unspecified “sexualized content”. This policy also garnered a 6-3 vote.
“I’m not surprised, but very disheartened, very upset,” one Central Bucks county resident said in an interview with CBS Philadelphia after Policy 321 passed. “It’s the direction the Board’s been going. We expected it, but we are gonna keep fighting.”
Like they did after the book ban policy of 2022, residents of Central Bucks County are protesting the recent approval of Policy 321. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, teachers and students from across Central Bucks School District held a demonstration outside of both Central Bucks High School East and Holicong Middle School in protest.
According to the Bucks County Courier Times, Keith Willard, a Holicong Middle School teacher, led a group of students and teachers out of school at about 3 pm to join around 20 others already protesting the policy.
“This policy is a roadblock to that progress. It attempts to make LGBTQ support invisible,” Willard told the Courier Times. “Make no mistake, this is a policy born out of bigotry and discrimination and one only needs to look at the previous revisions to see symbols of pride targeted.”
A draft of Policy 321 was first introduced during a September committee meeting. However, the original policy was revised multiple times after review from an attorney of Duane Morris LLP, the same firm which, a month later, was hired to defend the district against a federal LGBTQ discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of several students.
“We’re going down a dangerous road in Central Bucks,” Pam Remme of Doylestown told 6ABC Action News during the protest. “It started with banning some books, then it continued.”