An elementary school teacher at a Prince Rupert, British Columbia school has been banned by school administrators from displaying a certain quote from Dr. Seuss' children's story Yertle the Turtle. The teacher, who has not been named, was told that she would be disciplined for exhibiting the quote I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights, on her clothing and on her vehicle on school property because of its political message.
The quote comes from the story of a turtle king called Yertle, who orders the turtles in his kingdom to stack up on top of each other to build his throne. The turtle at the bottom of the stack verbally protests, Yertle rebukes the turtle and orders more turtles to add to the stack. At the end of the story the turtle at the bottom burps loudly and topples the stack. The turtles revolt, leaving Yertle on the ground without a kingdom to speak of.
The quote was seen on some materials that the teacher brought to a meeting with the school's management, after she had received a notice concerning union material in her car, which was located on school property, reported the Mail and Globe of Toronto.
The incident takes place in the midst of tensions between the teachers' union and the British Columbia district officials, following Bill 22, which came into effect last month. The bill was seen as a way to end the strike that began with several disputes last year. Teachers from the school district filed grievances about wages, working conditions and contracts. Some of the grievances were about the issue of teachers displaying quotes that were deemed inappropriate by the administration. Since the bill passed, a mediator was assigned to adjudicate issues between the teachers and the administration. In 2011, a decision had been made to keep political materials out of British Columbia classrooms.
It's a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging, Dave Stigant, the acting director of instruction for the school district, told Globe and Mail. I don't consider it's taking a stand on the dispute. It's a matter of legality and living up to our obligation to children and their families, he commented about the incident with the teacher, who he met with to discuss the quote. According to reports, Stigant says that the book itself is not banned, but her actions, namely wearing a shirt with the quote while teaching in a classroom, was inappropriate for the school.
Joanna Larson, president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers' Union, has spoken out about the incident, saying that the administration unfairly doesn't want the message to get to the students.
We feel very censored here right now, she told the Vancouver Sun. We have feelings that our rights to freedom of expression have been violated, Larson said.
Eight teachers in the district have gotten letters warning them about displaying certain political messages, reported the Vancouver Sun. Teachers who oppose Bill-22, with bumper stickers on their cars exposing their anti-Bill 22 status, are now choosing to park their vehicles away from school lots to avoid receiving letters from the administration.