One of the details of this story that hasn't gotten as much play is that Mark Kessler is a member of the North Schuylkill Board of Education and, as such, is charged with formulating district policy and approving staff hirings. This comes from an obviously biased source, but I think it may give some insight into Kessler's relations with the staff at North Schuykill:
How would you have liked to have been in that parking lot when these two butted heads? How do you think conversations between the superintendent and Kessler have been going for the past few months?
One of Kessler's favorite insults is the word "libtard." Were I a parent of a special needs child in the North Schuylkill district, I would have a problem with any member of my school board using a word that clear denigrates special education kids. When confronted with his use of the term by a local radio host, he dodged any responsibility for insulting special needs kids, and started berating the host (go to about 2:20, if you can take it).
[Update: I took the embed of the clip off the post; it was starting on its own and that was getting really annoying. Click below if you want to listen.]
Watch this at WILK News Radio
Let's be clear: Mark Kessler can say anything he likes, whenever he likes. I know absolutely nothing about federal or Pennsylvania firearms statutes, but if he isn't in violation of any, he can put as many videos up as his little heart desires. I do think there are some reasonable standards of conduct outside of work that can and should be imposed on law enforcement officers (and teachers), but let's put aside the question of whether Kessler has violated any of those; I haven't watched all of his videos anyway, so I won't say for sure.
Is it reasonable to assume that a teacher who expresses an opinion contrary to a school board member like Kessler will be treated fairly by him?
I think even Kessler would admit that he is not a mainstream kind of guy. He's clearly confrontational when dealing with the school staff. How would he react to a teacher who drives to school with an Obama bumper sticker attached to his car? How would he react if a special education teacher asked him (very, very politely) to stop using the term "libtard"? Perhaps he'd be fine with all that; perhaps he'd act in accordance with his stated beliefs about the sanctity of the First Amendment.
Then again, perhaps not.
There are nearly 14,000 school boards in the U.S., supervising over six million employees. I have little doubt the vast majority of these people are conscientious, diligent folks who get paid little to nothing for what is a very difficult job. My neighbors who serve on our local school board work very hard to keep our school system running efficiently, balancing the needs of children, taxpayers, and staff. I certainly believe that's true in the overwhelming majority of cases.
But it simply stands to reason that there will always be people serving on school boards who have their own agendas. It is foolish to think that teachers and staff do not need some sort of workplace protections from school board members who have extreme beliefs. Tenure - which, again, is nothing more than a guarantee of due process - is the best system we have to ensure that the rights of workers are protected from the whims of those who may or may not have ulterior motives.
Mark Kessler has a responsibility to the people who elected him to make sure the staff in North Schuykill's school do their job and do it well. But the staff has a right to express their opinions, just like Kessler, without fear of reprisal. Tenure is the compromise that ensures all parties can retain their rights while meeting their responsibilities. Who could be against that?