Here's a tale that might cause you to make a low and growling noise. Sharon Kriskovich has been teaching high school social studies and history for 10 years. And for 10 years, all without incident, she's brought to her classroom an array of campaign yards signs from past and present campaigns. It's all quite bipartisan. She uses the signage to talk about political advertising, what color schemes convey, how slogans can manipulate. Sounds innocent enough, right?
So this year at Lynnwood High School, she's teaching a class full of seniors, many of them first-time voters. Until last week, her walls were awash in local, state and national campaign yards signs -- more than two dozen of them, everything from "All the Way With JFK," and "I Like Ike," to the more humdrum Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee placards.
But you won't believe what happened.
Out of the blue, Kriskovich said she was informed by e-mail -- sent to her by her own union, the Washington Education Association -- that she needed to get rid of the signs because state law prohibits public employees from campaigning and that some teachers had received personal fines for having political signs in their classrooms.
"It's ridiculous," Kriskovich fumed yesterday when we reached her at Lynnwood High. "I've been told I can't display the signs on the walls, but it's OK if I wear an Obama T-Shirt or a Romney button. None of this makes any sense.".
Kriskovich added that the school administration has no problem with the signs, nor has the school district ever found it troubling.
WEA's communications director Linda Mullen said no one within the teacher's union has instructed Kriskovich to remove the signs from her class. All the WEA did, Mullen stressed, is what it does every campaign season -- that being, explaining the do's and don't's. And one of those don't's is that public employees, such as teachers, "not use public resources to campaign."
Mullen conceded that yes, it seems clear that Kriskovich was using the signs as a teaching tool, and that there's nothing wrong with that.
"I don't think the union has a problem with this," Mullen said. "I don't know why there's this confusion."