Election Newsletter



On November 14, 2016 approximately 30,000 teachers, students, and faculty working in the San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) received a letter from the written by Superintendent Nancy Albarran. The letter was intended to reassure SJUSD school communities that the district would continually provide “safe spaces” to discuss the 2016 presidential election results.

Despite the cheeriness of the letter’s beginning, the positive and seemingly open atmosphere quickly comes to an abrupt halt. Albarran adds a euphemism to the second paragraph’s second line, saying “We have suggested to teachers that if they do indeed take time and make space in the classroom for discussion around the election…to use suggested resources to ensure that our classroom remains places where all perspectives are listened to and respected.” While the article doesn’t directly state that teachers are only to discuss the election with specific guidelines, it does imply that teachers do not have the right to freely address the election results.

That’s where things got complicated. Teachers do have the freedom to discuss election results (so long as teachers don’t directly criticize any candidate or alienate students with opposing political views) without the use of book guidelines. In Pickering V. Board of Education, the Supreme Court lawfully protected school faculty from talking about public news and issues (like presidential elections) under the US Constitution. If you attend political rallies and/or protests during the weekend—or anytime you aren’t on school campuses— you cannot be disciplined from the school district for briefly talking about the event so long that it doesn’t directly affect an assignment, thanks to our First Amendment.

"Be a voice, not an echo"(Melissa Blasquez/Lincoln Lion)
“Be a voice, not an echo”(Melissa Blasquez/Lincoln Lion)

While Lion Tales couldn’t reach Nancy Albarran to talk about this newsletter Peter Allen, a public information officer at San Jose Unified School District, was willing to address the subject. “Our hope was that the letter would ease concerns from our community, parents and staff regarding the heightened tensions and unrest we’re seeing on the local and national news with regard to the election,” said Mr. Allen.”We pride ourselves on transparency and timely responses to potential concerns,” said Mr. Allen “We felt it was appropriate to be proactive in letting our community know how we are responding to the current political climate.”