Speech policies govern classroom conversations

Christian Pardo Villa and Rio Popper

Though Sequoia is primarily liberal, it also hosts a conservative minority—a minority whose right to voice opinions is an issue more controversial than it would appear.

“The constitution doesn’t disappear when you walk into school,” Principal Sean Priest said. “But it isn’t that simple. There was a board policy past that laid out the specifics for us in this district, and that policy was based on [a variety of court cases].”

Classes are allowed to discuss political issues only if nine conditions are met, among them that the discussion is relevant to the course, that it does not “reflect adversely” on students due to a number of minority statuses, multiple perspectives are explored and the teacher does not forward personal beliefs.

Teachers can only share personal beliefs if accompanied by a disclaimer that it is a personal opinion.

To many, the policy seems as though it is not always followed.

“Teachers tend to preach at you to be liberal,” junior Jay Miller said. “[According to the policy], it looks like they are supposed to be teaching us to be independent thinkers, but a lot of them unconsciously or consciously elevate their own viewpoint—in my experience [contemporary] liberalism.”

To others, teachers shouldn’t share political beliefs at all, regardless of the school’s policy.

“I hate it when teachers talk about what they personally think politically,” junior Leah Dagum said. “I’m a liberal, but I think teachers should keep personal beliefs to themselves because it really limits the conversation between liberals and conservatives. Things should just be unbiased at school.”

To others, it isn’t an issue that is as simple as a policy being followed or not—it is a societal problem that is too deep for Sequoia to address.

“It’s the same everywhere,” junior Chris Valdez said. “Liberals often don’t let others share their views. That is very true here, but there is nothing we can do. It’s being afraid of what your peers will think or say to you.”

It is also against policy for teachers to discriminate against students based on political affiliation or political views, though Priest has not come across this.

“We have a very professional staff here, and that would be unprofessional, so no, that hasn’t been an issue that has come up,” he said.

Some students, like Miller, have had different experiences.

“If I share my political views, students think I’m stupid, and teachers, well, they look at me differently.”

If I share my political views, students think I’m stupid, and teachers, well, they look at me differently.”

— Jay Miller, junior