Political paraphernalia: what’s banned and what’s allowed on school property

Two Franklin County School System employees were disciplined for displaying politically oriented items that violate the state’s Little Hatch Act (TCS 2-19-201 through 208).

Coffee County School system has not had such issues, according to Charles Lawson, director of Coffee County Schools.

“At this time, I am unaware of any instances in which a Coffee County teacher has displayed political campaign paraphernalia,” Lawson said. “This was a topic that was discussed at a principals’ meeting before the school year started and was to be addressed with faculties before students arrived.”

Staff members with Coffee County Schools are limited by TCA 2-19-206, said Lawson.

Employees on school property should not be displaying items of campaign or political advertising,” he said.

“While students are not limited by TCA 2-19-206, school board policy 1.806 does state, ‘Political signs for people who are running for public office shall not be allowed on school property except those being held by poll workers on election day.’”

Students have the ability to wear clothing advocating for a particular candidate on school property while employees cannot, said Lawson.

Bumper stickers on personal vehicles may be displayed; however flags and larger items are banned on school parking lots. 

“Because it is school property, the parking lots fall under both TCA 2-19-206 and board policy 1.806,” Lawson said. “TCA 2-19-206 exempts bumper stickers on private vehicles. Neither students nor teachers can display signs, flags, or larger items in accordance with board policy 1.806.”


Incidents in Franklin County

A Franklin County High School English teacher was reprimanded in August for hanging a 2020 Trump campaign flag in a classroom, and a North Middle School librarian was also disciplined later for breaking the same rule by wearing a Trump 2020 mask.

The Little Hatch Act prohibits all state employees from displaying campaign literature, banners, placards, streamers, stickers, signs, or other items of campaign or political advertising on the premises of state property. However, they may display a bumper sticker on their personal vehicle while parked on state property.