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NEA Legal & Employment Guidance

Educator Rights to Give Public Testimony

Elected representatives need to hear from you as they make decisions that will affect public education.
a black man at a lecturn with Sen. Bernie Sanders looking on Patrick G. Ryan
Arthur Anderson, a teacher’s aide from Virginia, speaks about educator pay at a town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Published: April 4, 2023
This resource originally appeared on

You can speak at school board hearings, state legislative sessions, and federal Congressional hearings.

NEA members have shared their experiences with elected representatives on some crucial issues, including the need for honesty in education, ways to support LGBTQ+ youth, and more.

Elected representatives need to hear from you as they make decisions that will affect public education.

You should be careful that your actions and speech do not violate community norms or expectations as to how educators should behave.

Educators can be held to higher standards than other members of the public, resulting in greater scrutiny of the subject and content of your speech.

The First Amendment does not protect speech on private matters. It also may not protect speech that is offensive or disrespectful. Similarly, tenure laws broadly protect teachers from being terminated for off-duty conduct, but not where the conduct violates community norms or expectations of how educators should behave.

In the next section discussing Social Media Activity, we provide further detail about how the context and content of your speech impacts the extent to which it is protected. Some of the advice is specific to social media, but you should keep the general principles in mind for all out-of-school speech.

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

Speak Up For Students and Public Schools

When we act together and lift our voices together in unison, we can improve the lives of children.
Broken pencils

Together, we will claim victories for public education

Join thousands of your fellow Oregon educators in contributing monthly to OEA-PAC and make your voice heard!

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).