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'I'm a little less afraid,' Woodland Park School District teachers celebrate free speech policy change

Teachers say they can speak freely without fear of punishment
Posted at 10:13 PM, Nov 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-02 00:13:31-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Woodland Park School District teachers celebrated a win Wednesday, upholding their right to speak freely without fear of punishment. A three-month-long legal fight is over with a district policy change.

"I'm a little less afraid and a lot of my colleagues are as well," said high school teacher Nate Owen.

Owen is also the union's president who filed the lawsuit in August. He said the superintendent changed policy in February, which violated teachers' First Amendment rights.

Nine months of silence is finally broken, said Owen.

"We weren't allowed to talk to the media at all without permission," said Owen.

When questioned why that was in a sit-down interview, Superintendent Ken Witt fell silent, an answer was never given by the superintendent during the interview regarding the question.

After about eight hours Tuesday, the school district and teachers union came to an agreement, ending the lawsuit. The new policy was adopted on Nov. 1st.

The new policy says, "Employees may not issue comments on behalf of a school or district without authorization from the superintendent."

Witt said punishments for violations would be handled on a case-by-case basis if teachers spoke on behalf of the school district.

The key change for Owen, who calls this a win, is that district employees are now free to express themselves in their private capacity, but they are prohibited from divulging confidential district information.

"The policy doesn't allow teachers to call snow delays for the school district because we're not allowed to speak on behalf of the district," said Owen. "But we are allowed to express what's really going on in the schools."

Superintendent Ken Witt also says he plans to meet with the Teachers Union's President every month to continue conversations between the board and union.


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