Staff Activism and the School’s Response
Schools need to be proactive in speaking about the appropriate responses to frustration and expectations related to public advocacy and demonstration.
A point in case, a staff member of the King’s school has been reported to the NSW Police after attending the July 24th anti-lockdown protest where thousands marched through Sydney and shut down the CBD. The staff member has also been suspended from duties at Kings. So far 58 people have been charged and 135 personal infringement notices issued over the rally.
The Principal, Tony George expressed his disappointment about the attendance of staff at the anti-lockdown rally, “It has come to the attention of the School that a member of staff attended the protest rally in Sydney on Saturday 24 July…Consequently the matter has been reported to Police by the School, and the staff member has been suspended from duties”.
As reported by the ABC, Mr George said that it was “very disappointing” to see people in breach of public health orders, “particularly given how hard everyone is working to get out of lockdown and return to school”.
It is important that schools keep clear the messaging around expectations and provide necessary support to staff and the broader school community in dealing with tensions and frustrations."
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald the teacher had posted on social media a range of views including: “This is me standing up for what I believe in rather than being a keyboard warrior, a pacifist, or worse, a coward in my own mind. I live with me in the mirror”. “I do not believe in living in fear. I do not believe the propaganda. I do not believe in unjust house arrest…I stand for all students. I stand for all those families who are stranded, isolated and suffering…I stand for freedom. I love you”.
It is important that all leaders discuss with their staff their school’s expectations around these matters. This relates to expectations in following public health orders and about the views expressed publicly or online. As seen above, the teacher clearly links their views to students and, as a consequence, the school. It is understandable that people are becoming frustrated with lockdowns and the length of time that COVID has been impacting on our way of life. However, it will be years before we will see a return to pre-COVID conditions. It is important that schools keep clear the messaging around expectations and provide necessary support to staff and the broader school community in dealing with tensions and frustrations. It is much easier to clarify expectations of staff upfront and to provide the necessary support than it is to deal with the repercussions of actions which play out in the media and possibly the courts.
Schools need to be proactive in speaking about the appropriate responses to frustration and expectations related to public advocacy and demonstration."