Can the public school I work for make me particpate in a student walk out?

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Can the public school I work for make me particpate in a student walk out?

I am a teacher. My high school is trying to organize a student walk out, perhaps one which aligns with one of the national walk outs. I feel these walk outs are politically motivated and do not align with my views on the 2nd Amendment. I also feel they are being used to insult our President. Can they force me and unwilling students to participate?

Asked on February 22, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If they were a private employer, they could force you to participate: the 1st amendment free speech rights do not apply to private employers. But public schools are arms of the government, and the 1st Amendment does apply to government entities, so it is unlikely that they can force you to participate in "speech" (that is, in an expressive act) against your will. That said, to avoid what could be an unpleasant and contentious fight with your employer you may be best off using a vacation or sick day that day.
Parents can very likely opt their children out of speech with which they disagree; it would be up to the parents, not minor students.


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