The request for an investigation comes after students at Wilbur Wright Elementary emailed letters to state officials. Stand for Children Indiana says the letters used “political rhetoric that reads more like campaign talking points than authentic content
from a legitimate civics lesson.”
The teacher, Mary Jane Dye stated in the e-mail with the letters:
The group says some letters referred to Gov. Mike Pence as a “dictator” for supporting a bill that would allow the Board of Education to elect its own chair rather than have the State Superintendent of Public Instruction automatically seated as chair.
“The public deserves to know whether any political or partisan actor played a role in encouraging or manipulating students to lobby state leaders on school time,” said Stand Indiana Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller. “Political debate in the halls of the Statehouse is absolutely acceptable, but if politics has entered our classroom and children are being used as political pawns, then that’s outrageous and should never ever happen.”
Ohlemiller pointed to several quotes from the letters:
“Glenda Ritz should be the one who has the power to control what goes on in Indiana public schools, not the government. Government, let Glenda Ritz do her job. … And government, why are you trying to overthrow Glenda while Tony Bennett was the real problem for Indiana public schools.”
“People are taking away Glenda Ritz’s power and we must not let that happen,” writes another. “1.3 million people voted for Glenda Ritz. That’s more votes than the governor received.”
School Board Member Sarah O’Brien is also a teacher and mother of young students. She says the letters cross the line of being appropriate in the classroom setting.The teacher should be investigated by the school district and reprimanded if she had her students engage in political advocacy during classroom time. Elementary school children are easily influenced by teachers. The notion that all the students, without influence from their teacher, fairly examined the complex issues involved in the Ritz-Pence dispute and came down on the side of Ritz is, well, ridiculous. Obviously the teacher was engaged in political advocacy in an elementary school classroom and that is inappropriate.
The problem though with Stand for Children position is that the organization's position reeks of hypocrisy. Stand for children as well as other pro-reform groups, are constantly using young kids as props in their Statehouse political rallies, having them hold signs advocating political positions on complex issues they are far too young to understand. Those supporting traditional public schools do the exact same thing. The fact that the children might not be losing classroom time doesn't change the fact that their youth is being exploited by adults who want to score political points.
Education reformers and those who support traditional public schools: please stop exploiting schoolchildren for your cause.