A group of public school teachers made a big fashion statement – one that shows they support the New York City Police Department – and they may lose their jobs because of it.
Ignoring warnings by the Union Federation of Teachers to not wear “inappropriate apparel” on the first day of school, approximately 20 teachers at IS72 in Staten Island started off the school year sporting gray T-shirts with the NYPD logo splashed across them, reports Vibe. Their decision to do so was spurred by what they say was the unfair treatment of police in the city in the wake of Eric Gardner’s death in July.
The Staten Island African-American man reportedly died of a heart attack while he was being arrested by police for selling untaxed cigarettes. Several civil rights activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, protested his death and encouraged others to rally against the NYPD after an autopsy report determined that excessive force was used against Gardner during his arrest.
The Union, which supported a recent protest march in Staten Island, issued an email warning to school employees the night before the first day of school that read: “As public employees, one must remain objective at all times. Certain T-shirt messages may appear to be supportive, but individuals (parents, students) may see a different meaning in that message.”
But Cindi Panarella, the UFT chapter leader at PS 44 in Mariner’s Harbor, said the Union had no right to make that call for them. “The UFT contract specifically says there is no dress code. They can’t tell us what to wear.”
Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said UFT chief Michael Mulgrew created this mess and was a “hypocrite” for marching in Staten Island, reports the New York Post. “Now he has teachers who are being activists themselves by wearing a T-shirt, and he doesn’t agree with them,” Mullins said.
The Department of Education is standing behind the Union for now. A spokesman for the DOE said, “Anything that distracts or disrupts learning should be left out of school buildings.”
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