The head of New York City's teacher's union and the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association were engaged in a war of words Friday after teachers were reportedly warned not to wear NYPD T-shirts in school.
According to a report in the New York Post, teachers who wore the shirts to school as a show of support for cops in the wake of the Eric Garner death were warned by a United Federation of Teachers official in an email that “as public employees, one must remain objective at all times. Certain T-shirt messages may appear to be supportive, but individuals (parents, students) may see a different meaning in that message.”
Garner was unarmed when he was stopped by police in July and placed in a chokehold — an illegal police tactic. The city medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. The UFT backed a march organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton that questioned police tactics after Garner's death.
In a statement, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Friday that their 200,000 members were encouraged to express their opinions outside school.
"But Department of Education regulations require school personnel to avoid distracting clothes and openly political statements when in school," Mulgrew said.
PBA president Patrick J. Lynch responded Friday to the warnings saying the teachers public display of support for the NYPD underscored the strong bond between most teachers and police officers.
"Mike Mulgrew needs to consider the opinions of the vast majority of his members before misusing their dues money to support anti-police issues," Lynch said. "Besides, what could be inappropriate about showing support for the police department that protects teachers and students alike?"
Mulgrew fired back saying, "The Eric Garner march was a teachable moment for all New Yorkers -– but the lesson seems to have been lost on Mr. Lynch."
Mulgrew said he planned to set up a meeting with teachers and parents who took part in the march to discuss "how the community and the police can move forward."
He invited Lynch to join in the meeting.
Mayor Bill de Blasio chimed in Friday, calling the issue an "artificial controversy," explaining that most police and teachers were on the same side.
Andrew Siff contributed reporting.