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Bench Ads Reinforce Freedom of Speech: CSAP Opt Out Is Not the Issue; First Amendment Is

Susan Notes:
If anti-CSAP notices must have a sticker affixed declaring them "paid political announcements" then this must be a public acknowledgment that the tests themselves are political instruments.


We have a saying in the newspaper business, apparently borrowed from ancient Greece: "Hate the message, but don't kill the messenger."

It's a phrase that could be applied to a situation created when the city of Greeley mistakenly removed signs from several of its bus benches. The paid advertisements asked parents to keep their children from taking the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

The five signs were purchased by the Coalition for Better Education, a group that opposes the CSAP tests, and placed around the city Jan. 16. By Jan. 18, the signs were removed by Greeley Transit Manager Gary Taylor and his staff, who believed the signs were in violation of a city policy not to allow political messages on the bus benches.

It was soon discovered that no such policy exists, and the city reversed its decision, allowing the signs to be put back up.

While it may have been an honest mistake - and one we don't support - such action goes against the protections of the First Amendment and our inherent rights as citizens of this country.
We applaud the city for reversing its decision. As of this weekend, however, the signs still weren't back in place.

Don Perl, a former Greeley-Evans School District 6 teacher who heads the coalition, said Friday the signs were picked up from his home Feb.1 and sent to Fort Collins, where a decal declaring them "paid political announcements" was supposed to be applied to each sign. Perl said officials from Next Media Outdoor Inc., which contracts with Greeley to make and place the signs, said the advertisements would be replaced by mid-week.

The city needs to right this mistake and make sure these signs are back up in a timely fashion. We suggest checking on the status come Monday morning.

The whole bus-bench-ad situation is ironic. Because the signs were removed, the anti-CSAP group has actually received more publicity for its cause than it would have if the signs simply had been allowed to stay. Case in point: Perl said last week he has received more inquiries about the coalition because of the publicity over the signs being removed.

We do not support the Coalition for Better Education's anti-CSAP message. We fully support every student in this district taking the tests and we encourage parents to ensure that happens. The CSAPs will begin being administered in District 6 schools later this month.

We do, however, support the coalition's right to have an opinion, to voice that opinion and to do so without restriction or retribution.

You can disagree with the message, but give the messenger his or her right to speak it."

To Know more:

Greeley-Evans School District 6

Colorado Department of Education

Coalition for Better Education

— Editorial
Greeley Tribune


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