I was listening in on my 3rd grader's online lesson about environment. The pre-recorded video went more or less like this:

  1. Environment needs our protection; otherwise you the kids won't have clean air when you grow up.

  2. Many countries, including the United States, agreed on protecting environment in Paris Accords.

  3. Republicans decided to withdraw from Paris Accords.

  4. A multiple choice question: was the withdrawal from Paris Accords good or bad for the environment?

And the video goes on like that about several environment related things, such as Kyoto, etc. And on every item the video makes sure to stress that the blame for destroying the environment falls squarely on the Republicans.

Thus the question: can public schools teach this sort of material that clearly blames one political party for problems?

  • 7
    A lot of the answer may turn on whether the information being provided -- as opposed to the inferences you think students will draw from it -- is true or false. That fact about the Paris Accords is true; are there other statements that you think would be problematic?
    – bdb484
    May 14, 2021 at 18:21
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    @bdb484, the problem is that although none of the statements are false, but they are misleading, and they are conditioning the young kids for a particular party allegiance. The same school doesn't teach the kids the Civil War in partisan terms, they don't tell kids that the slaveowners and later KKK members were all Democrats and the abolitionists were all Republicans. IMO public elementary school should not be involved in partisan politics, but this school district does.
    – Michael
    May 14, 2021 at 21:32
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    But the civil war was a long time ago and explaining the change in political party stances on various topics would be too much for such young children. Whereas the climate crisis is one supported by science and affects them in the here and now, pointing out the vested interests they're up against is necessary. May 15, 2021 at 8:55
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    To answer "Was the withdrawal from the Paris Accords good or bad for the environment?" Requires knowing what would have happened had we not withdrawn. It is impossible to know and therefore the question is unanswerable. It may be answerable if you can make a reasonable justifiable guess, but this is something adults debate. Its not a clear cut answer. The fact that teachers present it as if it is, is the problem.
    – Matt
    May 15, 2021 at 14:00
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is not about law at all. It belongs on politics.se if it belongs anywhere. It may be too opinion based even for politics. May 17, 2021 at 23:54

1 Answer 1


Unless specifically prohibited by law, schools can teach specific viewpoints. An example of "specifically prohibited" is RCW 42.17A.555 in Washington,

No elective official nor any employee of his or her office nor any person appointed to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition. Facilities of a public office or agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment, use of employees of the office or agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the office or agency, and clientele lists of persons served by the office or agency.

Your English teacher cannot use the classroom to campaign for a particular candidate or ballot proposition. There is an analogous law in California, and many (all?) states. A more detailed analysis of the Washington is provided here, including a long list of basic principles governing allowed vs. prohibited conduct, but it can be reduced to the dichotomy of "particular candidate / proposition" vs. "viewpoint". Viewpoints that are part of the curriculum can and are be mandated by statute or district policy. Employees may have some latitude to express their personal viewpoint, to the extent that they are consistent with the requirements of the curriculum.

For California, one can look for curricular requirements here. A non-technical overview of the 9-12 science curriculum aimed to inform parents is here, then you can find more technical details here. This document is part of that collection: it's the 4 course high school model (286 pages). You could then compare what is delivered in class to what the Board of Education says is to be delivered.

Here is the Grade 3-5 science curriculum, and here is grade 3 history and social science. There does not seem to be a requirement to teach a viewpoint nor a prohibition against doing so, but there is actually a requirement that you not be graded based on climate change / greenhouse effect subject matter.

So, probably it is allowed. In context, it could be viewed as campaigning against a political party thus illegal electioneering. I can't find any case law in California that addresses the legality of across-the-board campaigning against a political party using public resources, but here is a California legal guidance on legal and illegal campaign activities.


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