“Imagine that! Teachers sending out postcards with a picture of violence to silence others in town.” Tiverton Town Council member Donna Cook makes that statement in a new letter to the editor informing people about some facts from the recent recall election in town (which knocked me out of office).
She’s referring to one of the five mailings that the recall advocates sent to homes in Tiverton. The return address claims that it comes from “Progress RI,” which although not registered appears to be a “doing business as” name of the state’s teachers unions. The return address is that of a middle school teacher in town. And this is the front of the card, which Cook describes as “a violent picture similar to a kidnapping, hijacking, robbery, or a hostage situation.”
Note that the claim at the top of the card is demonstrably false; it’s a lie.
While recording an episode of a soon-to-be-released local podcast, Cook contrasted this card with all of the talk we hear from those in the education system about bullying. That’s an important contrast that isn’t made often enough in our world of hostile politics and toxic social media.
Imagine a high school student sending out something similar on social media about other students. Nobody would have any trouble seeing that as inappropriate bullying, and the student would face consequences, probably including suspension.
Of course, we rightly balance freedom of speech versus the giving of offense differently for children and adults. Grown-ups should be able to handle more, and society has less right to impose restrictions on them, at least in an official way. Still, this card was sent out by teachers in our public schools, behind a thin veil of anonymity and the thin excuse that it actually came from their labor union.
Is that the sort of standard we want for our nation, state, and community?
Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?