WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Teachers in New Hanover County and elsewhere have been protesting education cuts and teacher pay by wearing red T-shirts to show their support for education.
Now the New Hanover County School Board is the one seeing red and putting an end to it.
The district says teachers can no longer wear their "Red for Ed" shirts.
"We can wear red, but we can't wear it if it says 'Red for Ed,' because that is a political statement," teacher Lucas McLawhorn said.
Two district policies that address staff participation in political activities and political activities on school property have been in place for years.
"There is no intent on the part of the board to quash a teacher's right or any employee right to express their concern and dissatisfaction," school board member Edward Higgins said. "It's just a matter of where and when."
The school board says that place is not the classroom.
Higgins says in some cases teachers have used the shirts as a platform to express their frustrations to students, but teachers say their message is anything but political.
"We are losing good teachers, and once again a student who has a teacher that doesn't care, who is not invested, what are they going to learn?" McLawhorn said.
Higgins says the board has just as many questions about the legislature's education reforms as teachers do.
"We don't know where the idea came from. We don't know how it's supported, how it's justified," Higgins said.
State Rep. Ted Davis (R-19th District) says he is learning through forums, like one at UNCW last night, how the legislature's decisions affect local educators.
"It helps me be able to have a better understanding, so I can go to Raleigh and hopefully rectify some of those situation," Davis said.
The school district also asked principals to make sure the staff does not use the e-mail system, school websites or any other district form of communication to promote their message.