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NEA Legal & Employment Guidance

Educator Rights and Political Participation

Teachers and school support staff have strong First Amendment rights to engage in political activity.
Group of educators at an election rally Stephen Cherry Photography
Educators in Maryland before at an election event
Published: April 4, 2023
This resource originally appeared on

Key Takeaways

Educators have strong First Amendment rights to engage in political activity on your own time and in your personal capacity.
So long as you are not attending outrageous and offensive political events, you can rely on the First Amendment for protection.

Educators have strong First Amendment rights to engage in political activity on your own time and in your personal capacity.

But courts still balance your right to free speech against your school’s interests in controlling the speech.

You should avoid actions that could tip the balance in a school’s favor.

  • First, you should make it clear that you are not speaking for your school or acting on its behalf.
  • Second, you should make sure that the event relates to the public interest, and not a private matter at the school.
  • Finally, you should avoid activity that is truly offensive and inflammatory. If you follow these rules, the balance will nearly always tip in your favor for political speech.

"Politicians make so many decisions that affect my classroom and the profession. I need to be involved so we elect people who are going to make those decisions in a way that is favorable toward public education, public school workers, and the students we serve.”

— Amy Harrison, special education teacher, North Carolina

This page is intended to provide general information. For specific advice, you should always contact your local union or attorney. 

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Keeping the Promise of Quality Public Education

The Oregon Education Association (OEA) is a union committed to the cause of providing the basic right of great public education to every student. OEA represents about 41,000 educators working in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 public schools and community colleges. OEA’s membership includes licensed teachers and specialists, classified/education support professionals (ESPs), community college faculty, retired educators, and student members. OEA members also belong to the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA).