AFT Resolution

SUPPORTING TEACHERS AND SUPPORT STAFF’S FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AND RIGHTS TO PRIVACY AND ASSOCIATION IN THE LAWSUIT AGAINST THE BERKELEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT AND JUDICIAL WATCH

WHEREAS, public school teachers and support staff have a right to privacy, political association and free speech. Under the Trump administration, those rights are more vulnerable than ever; and

WHEREAS, right-wing watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request for the emails of Martin Luther King Middle School (Berkeley, Calif.) staff mentioning specific teachers, political organizations and politically identified movements: “Felarca,” “BAMN,” “By All Means Necessary” and “antifa.” They have also requested teacher Yvette Felarca’s personnel file; and

WHEREAS, Judicial Watch is associated with the alt-right and their publications, such as Steve Bannon and Breitbart News. It is best known for having supported racist attacks against former President Barack Obama, demanding that he publicize his birth certificate, and for suing Hillary and Bill Clinton numerous times; and

WHEREAS, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) agreed to comply with the CPRA by demanding King Middle School staff mine through and turn over any emails containing the aforementioned terms, or BUSD would search their emails for them; and

WHEREAS, Judicial Watch’s targeting of specific BUSD employees and political groups violates teachers’ and staff members’ civil liberties: freedom of speech, freedom of association, reasonable right to privacy and academic freedom of all school workers. Judicial Watch’s CPRA request comes with the possibility of teacher and staff internal communications being publicized on alt-right websites and publications for the purposes of dangerous right-wing trolling, harassment and threats; and

WHEREAS, King Middle School employees filed a lawsuit to block the release of emails to Judicial Watch, and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers filed an amicus brief in support. Federal Judge Vince Chhabria issued a temporary restraining order against BUSD on Nov. 9, 2017, and blocked BUSD from turning over emails and documents until after a hearing on May 14, 2018. There is a strong likelihood that the case will go to trial sometime in the next six months:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers send a letter to the presiding judge indicating AFT support for our members targeted in this case; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT encourage all local and state chapters to protect employees against discrimination and the violation of their civil liberties based on expression of their views on matters of public concern.

(2018)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.