By Ben Velderman
PROVIDENCE, R.I – One of the lessons Rhode Island legislator Brian Newberry took away from the recent presidential election is that public school classrooms should be campaign-free zones.
And now Newberry wants a state law that bans campaign materials – including literature, paraphernalia and buttons – from being displayed on school grounds.
The Providence Journal reports that Newberry’s law was inspired by incidents involving his tenth-grade daughter.
The news site reports that Newberry’s daughter “came home from the first day of school and told (her parents that) her English teacher was displaying a ‘big campaign poster’ for” President Barack Obama.
Notice that this happened “on the first day of school” – two full months before Election Day – and in an English classroom, where students are supposed to discuss literature, not politics.
Newberry complained to the school principal, but was told the poster would not be coming down.
In the following weeks, Newberry’s daughter said “her homeroom teacher had also put up a campaign poster and passed out stickers” for Obama, the Journal reports.
“Based on the principal’s earlier response, the Newberrys let the matter drop until Jan. 29, when (Republican) Representative Newberry … introduced House Bill 5184 to ban fundraising on school grounds and the display or distribution ‘to any pupil [of] any campaign materials,’” the Providence Journal reports.
During a recent hearing on the bill, some speakers said the proposed law goes too far and would stifle social studies teachers’ ability to teach students about politics.
But no one – including the representatives from the state’s teacher unions – “challenged Newberry’s basic premise, that teachers and school employees should not be promoting candidates in front of children,” reports the Journal.
Newberry doesn’t seem overly concerned about the bill’s chances for becoming law.
“Part of the power of a legislator is to draw attention to issues,” Newberry told the Journal. “Sometimes that alone results in change.”