A Tennessee public school principal recently sent an email to teachers and staff at their school and urged them to lobby against the school vouchers’ bill currently up for consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly.
According to the language of the Tennessee Hatch Act, such activity violates state law.
The principal warned teachers that vouchers would devastate public schools and lead to more homeschooled children in Tennessee having Education Savings Accounts. This principal also instructed teachers and staff to email complaints to specific legislators, in addition to Republican Gov. Bill Lee.
The Tennessee Star has chosen not to identify the principal in question. This person also asked teachers to ask friends and family members to involve themselves in the matter.
The principal asked teachers and staff members to do these things immediately and to also thank a specific legislator who opposes the bill. The Star has chosen not to identify that legislator.
In closing the email, the principal assumed nearly everyone agreed that vouchers are bad.
But this is an area where the principal could end up in trouble.
Specifically, Tennessee’s Hatch Act says the following about this conduct:
• “It is unlawful for any public officer or employee to use such person’s official position, authority or influence to interfere with an election or nomination for office or directly or indirectly attempt to intimidate, coerce or command any other officer or employee to vote for or against any measure, party or person, or knowingly receive or pay assessments of any kind or character for political purposes or for election expenses from any other officer or employee.”
• “It is the intent of this section to prohibit any political intimidation or coercion of any public officer or employee.”
A knowledgeable source told The Star Monday the principal’s email could create a hostile workplace environment for any subordinates who favor vouchers. Any employees who felt intimidated could file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Tennessee Human Rights Coalition, the source said.
– – –