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Parents accuse NYC Department of Education and Mayor de Blasio of attempting to 'silence' them

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

New York City parents of children in public schools are accusing outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio of attempting to silence them.

In an op-ed for the New York Post, Maud Maron and Danyela Souza Egorov say that a proposed regulation would allow the city Department of Education "to discipline and remove elected parents from Community Education Councils (our school-board equivalent) if they criticize the school district they are meant to hold accountable."

The rule, Chancellor's Regulation D-210, prohibits discrimination and harassment and says "conduct that violates this regulation may serve as a basis for discipline, even if it does not rise to the level of a violation of federal, state or local discrimination laws." It would apply to all elected or appointed members of any of the 32 Community District Education Councils, or four citywide education councils in New York.

Its stated purpose is to "develop and maintain a positive and supportive environment for elected and appointed parent leaders that is free of discrimination, harassment, bias, racism, and intimidation."

But the parents write that the "vague language" outlining what kind of conduct is prohibited is too broad. They also criticize the rule for establishing an "equity-compliance officer" to enforce it.

"This (no doubt expensive) bureaucrat would be charged with deciding who to target for removal for violating the newly expanded 'code of conduct,'" the parents write.

They charged that other provisions of the proposed rule are attempts by the DOE to "censor speech it finds inconvenient."

One section says council members cannot engage in “frequent verbal abuse and unnecessary aggressive speech” with others. The regulation also allows the chancellor to request a CEC member be removed if she believes the member’s conduct is “contrary to the best interest of the New York City school district.” Conduct that happens outside of CEC meetings or public appearances could serve as a basis for a complaint and removal, as long as the conduct “creates or would foreseeably create a risk of disruption within the district or school community.”

Even worse, an Equity Council, a team of DOE-appointed apparatchiks, would be tasked with providing recommendations on the resolutions of complaints — in other words who to remove and silence. The regulation ominously says that “in the event of a disagreement between the Equity Compliance Officer and the Equity Council, the recommendation of the Equity Compliance Officer shall govern.” Using equity language to cover up the undemocratic impulse to unseat critics is a transparent ploy.

The op-ed authors note that this rule is being proposed just after parents voted directly for CEC members, and "flipped" some councils by electing representatives who are vocally critical of DOE policies.

"While the DOE pretends this regulation is about protecting students, it includes language that is clearly meant to shield the DOE from any and all criticism from duly elected council members," they write.

The New York City Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Panel for Education Policy will vote on Chancellor's Regulation D-210 on Dec. 21.

Across the nation, parents have come into conflict with school boards over issues related to COVID-19 policies, the content of school libraries, accommodations for transgender students, and more. Some of these heated confrontations over the past year generated national media coverage. In response, the National School Board Association wrote to the Biden administration, requesting that federal law enforcement investigate incidents of violence and comparing protesting parents to "domestic terrorists."

That letter prompted many state school board associations to withdraw from membership in the NSBA, and the national body eventually issued an apology for the language used in its letter to Biden.

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