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Local high school teacher must remove campaign signsOctober 22, 2012 @ 6:25 pm (Updated: 8:11 am - 10/24/12 )
Here's the catch, the teacher is advised to wait until the election is over. At that point the campaign signs become "historical artifacts."
Original story below:
Sharon Kriskovich is the kind of energetic teacher you'd want for your kids.
She's been a social studies and history teacher for 10 years. This year at Lynnwood High School, she's teaching U.S. Government to classes full of seniors, many of whom will vote for the first time.
"I'm good at what I do. I'm a good government teacher and I love election years," Kriskovich says.
If you walked into her classroom a week ago you would have seen the walls covered with local, national and state political campaign yard signs.
Jay Inslee, Rob McKenna, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Chris Gregoire, Dino Rossi, and more.
"Many signs are from past elections. I like Mike is a play on words from 'I like Ike' which was a historic Eisenhower campaign, so Mayor Mike (McGinn) ran on that slogan," she says. "Some of these kids don't know that because they weren't aware of politics then. Some of the signs are from 10 years ago."
She uses the signs to teach about propaganda, advertising, and candidates' talking points in a non-partisan way.
"If you see slogans or if you see the color schemes, things like that evoke different 'rally around the flag' feelings. Here's one with stars and stripes. Does one see more patriotic than another one? Why or why not?" she asks her seniors.
Now more than two dozen signs are piled in the corner of her classroom, waiting to be carried out to her car and stored in her garage at home.
"It's inane. It's appalling," she says.
Lynnwood High School is fine with the signs, her school district is too. But her union, the Washington Education Association said she cannot display them.
"They told me, through email, some teachers in the State of Washington had personal fines for having campaign signs in their classrooms," Kriskovich says. "If it's displayed, it's public policy. If it's on my person, it's covered by first amendment rights. Which I think is even more biased. I can wear an Obama t-shirt or a Romney pin, but I can't use campaign signs as a tool?"
The WEA's Linda Mullen says they're trying to protect their teachers from potential Public Disclosure Commission fines. She didn't know how much the fine would be, and didn't know of any other teachers who were singled out for using campaign materials in the classroom.
The WEA says teachers may display signs during a lesson, but then have to take them down as soon as the particular class is over.
Kriskovich doesn't think the union is even aware of how she teaches her classes. She has a different theory about what's really going on.
"Jay Inslee is supported through our union, but Rob McKenna isn't," she points out. "I know that's a big issue with campaigns, but wow that's your union stuff, it has nothing to do with my classroom."
She thinks she's done a good job of presenting both sides of political campaigns and candidates, and even her students don't know where she stands personally.
"My job is to be bipartisan, so if I start to lean I want students to call me out on it," says Kriskovich. "I want to keep them guessing. 'What is she? Oh my gosh, what is she? She says this, but then she did that.' So they don't know, which is great."
A spokeswoman with the PDC says no one has filed a complaint against the teacher, and she would be exempt from their laws anyway as long as she's using the campaign materials in a non-partisan way for her curriculum.
The PDC's Lori Anderson says she only knows of one case when a teacher was fined in 2009. A substitute teacher at Shorecrest High School told her students she was running for the Shoreline City Council and they could get community service hours for working on her campaign.
The teacher in that case sent emails to the students from district property to coordinate their volunteer activities. A $750 fine was imposed, with $500 of that suspended. She ended up paying a $250 fine.
By LINDA THOMAS
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