Press Release

Educators Decry Latest Gag Orders from HISD Superintendent Mike Miles

Unions Representing Area Teachers Say They’re Exploring Legal Options in Response to Latest Attempts to Silence Local Voices

For Release:


Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603
Jackie Anderson
Zeph Capo

HOUSTON—Following the announcement from Houston Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles—who was appointed during the state takeover of the district—that school employees are instructed, “not to use social media or any communication platform, including forwarding, supporting of ‘liking,’ posts or communications, to communicate false or misleading information about a school or district, particularly if designed to damage the school or district’s reputation, or undermines the school’s or district’s high-performance culture,” AFT President Randi Weingarten, Texas AFT President Zeph Capo and Houston Federation of Teacher President Jackie Anderson issued the following statements:

Photo of a slide by HISD

Weingarten said:

“This is dangerous overreach that should concern every member of this community. Separate and apart from this blatant infringement of the freedom to express themselves that  every American is guaranteed, it is terrible for the education of students. Education requires knowledge and free flow of information—that is the basis of the freedom to think, to understand, to discern fact from fiction. This silencing of educators is antithetical to that. It is precisely the wrong example to set for this city’s students, and it is the latest in a string of egregious examples that show how Superintendent Miles has no interest in improving Houston’s schools or helping kids. He is simply promoting a political agenda that more and more has no resonance with the community. Texans zealously protect their rights, and no one, conservative or liberal alike, should countenance this McCarthy-like-era, chilling effect on educators, gagging them and threatening their jobs for posting on social media. 

“Teachers didn’t take on involuntary servitude and a pledge to say ‘yes sir, whatever you say.’ They are the professionals in the classroom, and takeover aside, they didn’t forfeit their inalienable right to speak out on the issues that affect them and their students when they became teachers. Quite the opposite—they became teachers to help young people and foster democratic principles.”

Capo said:

“We were sold a bill of goods when the state takeover of Houston public schools was announced. Instead of making sound policy changes to make a difference in students’ lives and academic outcomes, everything the superintendent has done so far will harm students and teachers—he’s turned libraries into detention centers, pulled a bait and switch about higher teacher pay, eliminated special education and speech pathology positions, eliminated recess for fifth graders, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder he was drummed out of Dallas and he’s doing an even worse job in Houston.”

Anderson said:

“This outrageous policy is already being tested; today, a teacher, who we believe was within his rights, spoke out against district policies during a staff meeting and was told to go to the school district’s administration building. This policy adds to the long list of absurd changes and actions that Miles has made that have absolutely nothing to do with improving public education and kids’ achievement. Houston students are walking into schools next week in a powder keg environment. This has got to stop.”

The unions suspect that the new policy appears to be an overbroad and vague gag order that violates the First and Fourteenth amendments for gagging educators and vowed to explore legal options.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.