For teachers in one Louisiana school district, any criticism of the controversial and problematic Common Core Curriculum is not only prohibited — it’s a punishable offense that may cost them their jobs.
When 12-year junior high school teacher Deborah Vailes posted a criticism she had about the Common Core on her personal Facebook page, school officials immediately retaliated by ordering her to retract her post and threatening disciplinary measures, which could include termination.
Contending that Rapides Parish School District and Pineville Junior High School Principal Dr. Dana Nolan violated Vailes’ free speech rights protected by the United States Constitution, Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) filed a lawsuit with the Federal District Court for the Western District of Louisiana against the school officials Wednesday on the teacher’s behalf.
"Public school students have become 'guinea pigs' in a vast untested educational experiment dictated by the Federal Government,” TMLC President and Chief Counsel Richard Thompson expressed. “Our Constitution never envisioned federal control over education.”
Thompson insists that states giving in to the administration of the Common Core — in order to receive federal funding — will find a rocky road ahead.
“But sadly, most states have voluntarily abdicated their responsibilities over education for federal dollars,” Thompson continued. “Their decision will prove disastrous, not only for public education, but also for the freedom guaranteed by our Constitution.”
Thomas More’s lead attorney stressed that Vailes’ criticism of the Common Core was not motivated by any ill-intent against the school, district, state or federal government, but rather by her passion for her students.
“Debbie Vailes' uncompromising love for her students prompted her to speak out,” Thompson asserts. “And her voice should not be silenced by a tyrannical principal."
Where’s the crime?
Failing to see any offense whatsoever in Vailes voicing her concerns over a problematic curriculum, TMLC recorded the events that took place leading to the lawsuit.
“Debora Vailes re-posted on her personal Facebook page a photograph of a little girl crying because of the shortcomings of Common Core,” TMLC reported. “Later that day, her school principal, Dr. Dana Nolan, after discovering the post, gave Deborah Vailes her first written reprimand and ordered her to refrain from expressing any opinion about public education on social media and to remove her anti-Common Core post from the social media site — ASAP. (The school district refers to written reprimands as a ‘documented conference.’)”
Vailes was also issued a stern warning by Nolan not to say anything else that could be regarded as negative about the Common Core in public — including all social media channels and public forums. After this, she was made an example before the rest of the faculty — serving as a warning.
“Two days later, Dr. Nolan held a mandatory faculty meeting of the Pineville Junior High School,” TMLC’s written factual account continued. “She informed the faculty at the meeting that Deborah Vailes was reprimanded due to posting a negative opinion about Common Core on Facebook. Dr. Nolan warned the faculty not to share their personal opinions or speak-out in any way.”
Embarrassed that state officials over education took to a Gestapo-like approach to silence any opposition to the federally created Common Core, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took immediate action to ensure that such authoritarian control isn’t enforced against concerned teachers in the future.
“After hearing about the Principal's gag order, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, issued an executive order that teachers were to be afforded the same constitutional guarantees afforded to all citizens,” TMLC reports. “However, his executive order did not deter the Defendant, Dr. Nolan, from continuing her vendetta against Deborah Vailes.”
Under close watch before termination?
Vailes had a performance record that was second to none prior to her Facebook post that pointed out the deficiencies of the Common Core. In fact Vailes had never received a reprimand before the incident, but afterwards, she has been issued an additional three written reprimands.
“School administrators are now constantly visiting her class, when before her criticism of Common Core, such visits were rare,” TMLC explains. “Dr. Nolan has stripped Debbie Vailes of her responsibilities, and placed her in a job category which, according to Vailes' colleagues, will be eliminated at the end of the school year, resulting in her termination.”
Politically correct, legally wrong
According to the attorneys representing Vailes — TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Erin Mersino and local attorney Theodore D. Vicknair — teachers don’t lose their rights of citizenship once they sign their contracts with public school districts.
“Accepting employment in the public sector does not mean a total loss of First Amendment freedom,” Mersino argues. “Public employees may readily comment on matters of public concern, such as the Common Core Curriculum, and do so free from any retaliation from their employer. What the School District and Principal are doing to Debbie Vailes is blatantly wrong."
Rotten to the Core at any standard
The federal government’s U.S. Department of Education has taken an unprecedented leap to take over state-run education. It has done this by requiring state boards to accept Common Core State Standards — if they want to get their hands on federal funds. To take advantage of this, most states have already replaced their stands with the Common Core. This new set of academic standards was created by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association to be used instead of the previously implemented standards developed by the states.
A nationwide upheaval by parents and educators alike has stirred since the implementation of the Common Core in Louisiana and 42 other states. After its implementation, 62 percent of teachers have expressed frustration with the new federal standards, according to an October 2014 Gallup Poll.
Explaining away many of the deficiencies of the new nationwide curriculum, its development is reported to have been haphazard, at best, with little to no quality control.
“Adding to the frustration is the fact that the Common Core Standards were untested prior to their implementation,” TMLC reports. “They were implemented without any prior research being conducted on their efficacy, resulting in standards that at best reflect guesswork. Many child development experts have decried even the creation of the standards without input from classroom teachers or early childhood professionals.”
The Common Core is said to be making education more about jumping through the hoops to make sure the Core is being taught and understood, rather than focusing on the proper academic development of students.
“Compounding the anger over the standards themselves was the overwhelming emphasis on standardized testing,” TMLC asserts. “The Common Core State Standards require so much testing, that teachers can only teach to the test.”
And the list goes on …
“Moreover, Common Core's method for teaching math over-complicates and adds numerous seemingly illogical steps to solving math problems,” the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based nonprofit law firm contends.
Besides its pedagogical failures, the Common Core is argued to be pushing a Leftist political persuasion upon students via controversial materials and themes — many of which have been identified as an assault on Christian beliefs and values.
“Many parents and teachers have also expressed concern over the English Standards set by the Common Core,” TMLC attorneys point out. “The reading selections considered to be representative examples of what students should be reading, feature incest, rape and drug use, as well as far left political viewpoints.”