On Feb. 9, the Des Moines Register reported that a lawyer was fired by the Iowa Association of School Boards for her support of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in an op-ed.
Anna Bergman’s op-ed contained information on how well Reynolds has done as head of state and cited instances such as unemployment, spending on K-12, and affordability for middle-class families. The article, titled “Iowans are not buying the Democrats’ hyperbole,” was a response to another contributor who felt that Reynolds was running the state into the ground.
In the article reported by the Register, the school-board group said it fired Bergman because she included her occupation in the biographical information at the bottom of the page and she did “not have the authority to initiate communications to the public on legislative or educational issues.” Nowhere in the body of the op-ed did Bergman identify herself or represent her opinion as a fact on behalf of the association. She merely stated her opinion in an opinions column and is now paying a price for it.
Claire Clesi, author of the initial article, “Gov. Reynolds and GOP legislators doing a great job running Iowa into the ground,” has recently declared her candidacy for the Iowa Senate seat open in District 21. In years past, she has occupied roles as an instructor at Drake University and serves the National Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board, two institutions that valued her hard work over political affiliation. Her vocal political opinions never hindered her ability serve the public and should be an example to Bergman’s former employer.
As frightening as unpoliced thoughts are, the school-board group should have commended Bergman for her defense of Iowa schools. Her glowing opinion on schools and K-12 education is a direct reflection of the hard work the school-board association has put into public education, and, in Bergman’s opinion, successful implementation of policies that have led Iowa to high graduation rates and dual-enrolled students.
The only downside to Bergman’s argument? She publicly mentioned the Democratic Party and its use of hyperbole to shame the governor into running things differently. Although the words “Republican” or “conservative” were used zero times, her advice for Democrats to dwindle down their exaggerations was enough to prompt her termination on the grounds of being too partisan.
When football players kneel for the national anthem, it is their absolute right to but it is also the right of their employer to be offended by the action and respond accordingly.
When Kathy Griffin posted a picture of her beheading the president of the United States, she used her free speech and (hardly) accepted the fact that she would have her employment terminated and a stain on her name for years to come.
Unfortunately, the Iowa Association of School Boards’ decision to fire an employee based on a 400-word op-ed is not only its right but one that allows the public to know where it stands on speech it disagrees with. As Iowans, we should be grateful for the association employing its freedom to fire attorneys with little to no reason, so that we can truly understand the Iowa Association of School Boards’ strong opposition to intellectual diversity.