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SIMI VALLEY : Hot-Button Issue Brewing in Schools

Simi Valley educators are planning to fight a proposed board policy that would prohibit elementary school teachers from wearing political buttons in their classrooms.

The Simi Valley school board will vote on the proposal Jan. 24.

The proposal stems from a state attorney general’s opinion saying school districts may adopt regulations prohibiting teachers from wearing buttons to prevent children from viewing political material they may not understand.

But Simi Valley educators say the district proposal would violate their constitutional right to free speech.

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“Teachers have the right to wear buttons,” said Ron Myren, president of the Simi Educators Assn. “We strongly disagree with this board policy and we will fight it--to court if necessary.”

Debate over political buttons is not a new issue in Simi Valley. In 1988, teachers fought school administrators for the right to wear buttons showing their support for school board candidates, Myren said.

The school superintendent at that time threatened to suspend teachers if they wore buttons to class. Eventually, teachers and district officials reached an agreement that teachers could wear political buttons, Myren said.

“As long as you don’t tell students, ‘Vote for this,’ we feel it is OK,” he said.

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Myren said he plans to meet with district officials this week and will urge them to recommend that the board not approve the proposed regulation.

Trustee Carla Kurachi said she does not have to be persuaded. She opposes banning buttons. “When you enter the school sites, your constitutional rights don’t end,” she said.


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