GOP state lawmaker introduces bill that would block teachers from discussing ‘controversial’ issues


An Arizona state lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would bar teachers from introducing “controversial issues” or engaging in any “political, ideological or religious” advocacy in their classroom. 

State Rep. Mark Finchem (R) introduced House Bill 2002 in the Arizona State Legislature earlier this month, according to The Arizona Daily Star. The newspaper notes that if the bill were to pass, teachers could potentially lose their jobs for engaging in political or ideological discussions with their students. 

{mosads}The bill would require teachers to undergo annual ethics training and to abide by a strict ethics code. The code would bar teachers from introducing a “controversial issue” unrelated to a class subject. It would also prohibit teachers from publicly supporting or opposing any legislative, judicial or executive action. 

Among other things, the bill also would prevent teachers from placing blame on one racial group of students for the “suffering and inequities” experienced by another group. 

The Star notes that Finchem said in the bill that discussing ideological topics in the classroom leads to “indoctrination.”

Finchem declined to comment to the Star. He told The Arizona Republic earlier this month that the bill was a direct response to concerns about politics in the classroom from his constituents. 

Some educators told the Star that the bill from Finchem appears to be a direct response to the teacher-led #RedForEd movement. The movement led to a statewide teacher strike in April and gave way to Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and the Legislature announcing that teacher salaries would increase by 20 percent over a three-year period. 

Finchem told the Republic that he considered teachers wearing #RedForEd shirts in the classroom inappropriate. 

“If you step into a classroom with a Trump T-shirt, a Hillary T-shirt, a ‘Vote No on 126’ T-shirt, you’re engaging in political speech in the classroom,” he said. “If there’s a political agenda behind it, leave it at home. Simple request.”

Arizona state law prohibits public and charter school employees from utilizing school resources to influence the outcome of an election. The Republic reported that this law was a reason why some school districts warned teachers against wearing #RedForEd apparel in their classroom. 

Jason Freed, president of the Tucson Education Association, told the Star that a law prohibiting teachers from discussing controversial issues would reflect poorly on them. 

“It is our job to provide kids with an opportunity to think creatively,” Freed said. “It’s our job to help them to analyze whether they think something is good and why, and if it’s not good, how they could make it better.” 

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