PEORIA – What the Thomas More Society considers to be "an unconstitutional and discriminatory proposed rule for Illinois educators" is being considered by the state’s Board of Education.
The rule is one that could "require teachers to violate their conscience in order to obtain or retain their teaching license," the legal group said in a press release Monday.
Thomas More Society attorneys are working with the Pro-Family Alliance to address "the potentially unlawful mandate." The rule, enclosed in an Illinois State Board of Education regulation section titled Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards for All Educators, is a violation of teachers’ rights,"according to Molly Malone, Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs for Pro-Family Alliance.
“The primary problem with this proposal,” explained Malone, “is that it unconstitutionally compels speech. This rule requires people of faith to affirm ideologies they don’t believe in and endorse behaviors that may be inconsistent with the values that they live by. We have written a letter, with legal advice from attorneys at the Thomas More Society, asking the Illinois State Board of Education to drop the proposed amendment to the teaching standards.”
The Proposed Rule – Illinois Register Volume 44, Issue 37 – Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards for All Educators, according to the Pro-Family Alliance:
- Is Unconstitutionally Vague – This rule fails to include any definitions or objectively measurable standards to assess teacher competency with respect to the covered subjects. Instead, it sets forth subjective aspirational statements such as, “The culturally responsive teacher and leader will understand and value the notion that multiple lived experiences exist, that there is not one ‘correct’ way of doing or understanding something, and that what is seen as ‘correct’ is most often based on our lived experiences,” and “engage in reflection about their own actions and interactions and what ideas motivated those actions,” and “explore their own intersecting identities, how they were developed, and how they impact daily experience of the world.” There is no definitive action mandated, but vague, unmeasurable commands to understand, reflect, and explore.
- Unconstitutionally Compels Speech – This rule requires people of faith to affirm things they don’t believe in. Specifically, teachers are expected to, “create a risk-taking space that promotes student activism and advocacy,” “embrace and encourage progressive viewpoints and perspectives that leverage asset thinking toward traditionally marginalized populations,” and “affirm students’ identities.” The rule goes on to specify gender identity and sexual orientation, then goes on to direct teachers to “assess their biases and perceptions” about “sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.” Requiring that teachers address so-called “progressive” viewpoints discriminates against traditional values and illegally compels a liberal agenda.
- Threatens Teachers’ Right to Free Exercise of Religion and Conscience – The proposed rule, if enacted, requires, as a condition of licensure, that teachers take a definite ideological stance with respect to the political and social issues it addresses. This requirement will create potential conflicts with the deeply held religious convictions of teachers, parents, and students in the State of Illinois. Not all teachers would be able to comply with the new standards without violating their consciences.
The letter notes that the proposed rule urges reflection and understanding, especially when it comes to diversity, which according to Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Thomas Olp is not the issue.
Olp elaborated on the dangers of the Illinois State Board of Education’s recommendation.
“We do condemn racism or discrimination due to ethnicity. We respect diversity within the culture. However, mandating acceptance and endorsement of values that may be inconsistent with one’s own deeply held religious beliefs is unnecessary and unconstitutional,” he shared. “Additionally, the rule tries to dictate what teachers think – and to form them in an activist mindset. We recommend that the Illinois State Board of Education drop this proposed rule because of its constitutional infirmities of vagueness, viewpoint discrimination, and interference with free exercise of religion and conscience.”
Read the letter from the Pro-Family Alliance to the Illinois State Board of Education, regarding Proposed Rule – Illinois Register Volume 44, Issue 37 – Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards for All Educators, dated October 23, 2020, here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Letter-of-Pro-Family-Alliance-Commenting-on-Proposed-ISBE-Rule-Standards-for-All-Illinois-Teachers-FINAL.pdf]