Intentional Leadership

Tag: law

Voting

I have been told that voting was my duty because of the black people who died for my right to vote. My . motivation for voting comes from thinking about my obligation to the current and future generations. I can’t be certain, but it seems those who died for my right to vote were thinking of making life better for future generations not necessarily martyring themselves on my behalf.

I have been told that if I don’t vote, I don’t have a right to complain about what happens in society. Honestly, I have yet to see how not voting removes my right to complain. My not voting could be a protest about what happens in society when the political process is not accessible to “regular” people; when partisan politics alienates the country; and when corporate interests remove what power my vote might have.

Speaking of the power of my vote, I have been told that my vote is my voice such that if I don’t vote I don’t have a voice. I believe voting is not that straightforward, cause-and-effect process we would like it to be. If voting were straightforward, would the electoral college exist? Would lobbyist have access to politicians? Would political ads be as prolific and profitable for the media?

It is my responsibility as a citizen to know why I am voting for a particular candidate beyond sound bites and dog whistles. It is my responsibility to reflect on my priorities and determine which candidate truly aligns with my priorities as far as it is possible. As an educator, I think it is important to help students think critically about the electoral process in this country and their participation in it.

Leadership and the Law

As a leader with decision-making capacity, my biggest takeaways from this class are…

I struggled to pinpoint “biggest takeaways” for this course. I am still reflecting on much of the content. As a leader with decision-making capacity, the overarching takeaway from this class is that I need to be proactively mindful of the legal ramifications of any decisions I make with regard to the organizations and people I serve. Prior to this course, my thinking about education and the law centered on social justice issues – the school to prison pipeline, disproportionate disciplinary actions, and underfunded urban school districts. Student rights within the public schools outside of rights specifically related to education did not even occur to me.

There are specific takeaways that are relevant to my role as a school administrator in a faith-based private school. First, I need to learn more about the federal and state laws that govern our educational practice. The majority of the cases we discussed in class centered on the public school context. Granted, the constitutional issues based on the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1972 are still relevant to the school I serve. However, Title IX doesn’t apply because our school receives no federal funding. My public school cohorts were able to share their school district policies on free speech, freedom of religion, and Title IX. I had no frame of reference for any of it, due in large part to my brief tenure thus far.

My second biggest takeaway is that I have to consider my role in proactively protecting the rights of people I serve. Reading Farivar’s account of the judicial and law enforcement stutter-step dance around privacy issues in Habeas Data makes it clear that I am responsible for protecting personal privacy, property, and even data in our technology-dependent society. Fortunately, our school does not collect a lot of data on our students. I will have to be mindful as we grow into a larger more complex educational organization. I am not sure what processes and systems we will need to put in place to be proactive. But my awareness is heightened to the potential risks.

My third biggest takeaway is to properly educate staff about discriminatory behavior in the workplace. Thomas’ narrative timeline of the fight for women’s equal rights in the workplace, Because of Sex, spanned more than fifty years. The last case ended approximately five years ago. We are still working to transform minds about equal rights for women despite the prevalence of women in leadership roles. Our class discussed this book as a few issues came to light among our staff in the school I serve. I realized that there are quite a few people who have been in the workforce during the past 30 years who have not engaged in progressive discussions about gender, gender identity, sexual harassment and discrimination. I understand my role as a leader is to set the expectation and help my colleagues meet that expectation.

My fourth and final takeaway is the realization that the development of jurisprudence related to our constitutional rights is complex, non-linear and seemingly illogical. Media accounts and pundit discussions of court cases sound so straightforward. Court decisions are full of perspective, point of view, bias, and conjecture. I can’t imagine trying to determine how the constitutional writers in the 1700s would apply their legal reasoning to present-day issues. Now when I listen to accounts involving any form of law enforcement issue, litigation or criminal activity, I hesitate to presume guilt, innocence or unfairness unless a blatant act of injustice has occurred. I can hear Dr. Becker ask, “What are the facts of the case?” as I try to suspend my judgment and think about how the court might reason and based on what precedent. As a leader, I am much more aware of what motives, explanations, and judgment others might assume based on the consequences of my decisions.

Roseflower Response

[NOTE: This blog post is a response the a hypothetical scenario linked here.]

Pertinent factors in the Roseflower Independent School District align with the Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 US ___ (2014) and the Lee v. Weisman 505 US 577 (1977) cases. In Lee v. Weisman, Weisman sued to halt the practice of the principal inviting clergy to offer prayers of invocation and benediction at local middle school graduation ceremonies. Similarities to the Roseflower case include a representative of a school system involved in implementing overtly religious activity at a school-sponsored event and prayer being held at a school-sponsored event as part of a generally accepted practice, but not an explicit policy. I have considered the decision of the Supreme Court and the concurring and dissenting opinions in this response to Rosewood.

In Town v Galloway, Galloway sued to end the practice of prayer at local legislative sessions predominantly led by Christian clergy from among the community to the apparent exclusion of other faiths. The Roseflower case is similar in that prayer was led by a predominantly by a Christian, prayer started a meeting of the school district’s governing body in which meeting participants were fulfilling either their roles as employees or as part of their civic duty.

As Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, I would consult the legal counsel for the school district, particularly since Dr. Cohen is willing to file suit if necessary. I would want to know if the school district or the state has any restriction on prayer in public schools and if there had been previous issues regarding prayer in school. The personnel aspects of this situation center on the power and authority commiserate with Dr. Jordan’s position as Superintendent. The fact that her subordinates are in attendance at the administrative meetings in which these prayer moments take place can be viewed as coercive. Ostensibly, those under her authority are compelled to stand in a circle, holding hands while she leads in prayer, invoking God. There is no indication that she allows for those who are not in agreement to leave nor does she hold the prayer prior to the formal start of the meetings thereby making the prayer participation voluntary. In order to avoid these prayer moments, her subordinates would have to intentionally arrive late or overtly dissent. Dissent during the meeting could be taken as disrespect not only for her authority, but for the administrative team as well.

Once I have sought legal counsel, I would speak with Dr. Jordan about Dr. Cohen’s complaint about the prayer at the administrative meetings and at the school board meetings, making her aware of the potential for legal action. I would make her aware of the likely violation of the Establishment Clause. I also would encourage Dr. Jordan to consult with the District lawyer as well. I seek to facilitate a conversation between Dr. Jordan and Dr. Cohen to give him an opportunity to personally express his views hoping to avoid a contentious relationship. In order to facilitate a mutual agreement, I would suggest that Dr. Jordan consider making the prayer optional just prior to the start time of the administrative meeting for those who want to participate.  Although it is unclear whether Dr. Jordan also started the school board meeting prayer, I would suggest the meetings begin with a centering moment in which attendees can pray, meditate or pray silently if they so choose.

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