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NAACP Bucks County urges Pennridge School Board to take time to listen to parents and community members before shutting down freedom of speech in schools

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The NAACP Bucks County called on Pennridge School Board members to hold public hearings before passing two extremely controversial and patently unconstitutional proposed policies that will shut down freedom of speech in Pennridge schools and prevent teachers from supporting students facing discrimination. The board has called a special meeting for Monday, Aug. 15, to review revisions to these policies, with a vote possible as early as the Aug. 22, school board meeting.

The Aug. 15 meeting was just announced on Aug. 11 providing minimal notice that will ensure most parents and community members are not aware of the meeting or are unable to adjust their schedules to attend.

The policies that attempt to severely restrict and control school employee and student speech were first considered at a School Board Policy Committee meeting just two weeks ago, on Aug. 1. The committee heard from approximately a dozen community members opposed to these policies during the 40-minute public comment period, with no community members speaking in support of the policies. Legal experts have declared that the overbroad policies clearly violate constitutional protections of speech for students and school employees, who do not leave their free speech rights at the school door.

“The policies are particularly concerning for students of color, as teachers will not be free to speak in support of students facing racial bias that is a significant issue in Pennridge,” said Adrienne King, Pennridge parent and chair of the NAACP Bucks County Education Committee. “The chilling effect of these policies will make Pennridge an even less welcoming and supportive district for students of color.”

The achievement gap of Pennridge Black and Hispanic students compared to White students based on 2019 English/Language Arts Scores (22% Black-White gap and 18% Hispanic-White gap) and 2019 Math Scores (25% Black-White Gap and 19% Hispanic-White gap) is shown in the 2021 Children First “No More Dreams Deferred Building an Education System that Works for Black and Hispanic Students in the Philadelphia Suburbs.” The policies currently being considered run counter to the recommendations offered in the Children First report.

The Pennridge School Board recently dissolved two advisory committees on diversity and inclusion amidst community concern about the experience of children of color in the district. This new effort to control and limit the speech of school employees and students is just the latest in the School Board’s anti-diversity and inclusion efforts.

David Thomas, spokesperson for the Pennridge School District said, “We advertise all board meetings in compliance with the legal time required and through our website and social media accounts. We also provide all of our stakeholders with the agenda, minutes, and policies through our website so they can be the most informed prior to the meeting. Finally, we encourage all of the Pennridge area community members to attend these public meetings, and if so desired, use their given time of public comment as they see fit.

Editor's note:  Updated Monday, Aug. 15 , 2022, at 1:55 p.m. to include statement from Pennridge School District.

Pennridge School District

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