In our report last year, The Scandal of Social Work Education, NAS wrote about the influence of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) on America’s schools of social work. The NASW Code of Ethics, which emphasizes the profession’s commitment to social justice advocacy, has become a benchmark to which schools of social work require students to conform. The Code of Ethics enjoins social workers to “engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to resources, employment, services and opportunities to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully” and “advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions to meet basic human needs and promote social justice.”
The NAS report took no stance on the merit of the issues for which NASW demands activism. Rather, it argued that NASW’s standards:
take no notice of the existence of competing ideas, but grant a privileged status to a single, arguable view, which is thereby placed above critical examination. In that sense, NASW’s emphasis on social justice, when applied to academic programming, runs counter to the spirit and the principles of good educational practice and normal scholarship.
For these reasons, NAS declared that under specifications given by NASW, schools of social work endangered students’ freedom of speech by enforcing conformity to a prescribed point of view. The report, The Scandal of Social Work Education, concluded by challenging the National Association of Social Workers to cleanse its Code of Ethics of political/ideological mandates.
Recently, the NASW elected a new president, Dr. James J. Kelly. The new president outlined his strategy in an NASW newsletter, in an article entitled, “Rolling Up My Sleeves.”
Today, Peter Valunas writes the letter below to Dr. Kelly, urging him to reform NASW, to “make an intelligent response to the National Association of Scholars report,” and to “show America the NASW supports the Constitution.” Valunas himself was a social work student who in 1989 was denied his degree by the University of South Florida School of Social Work.
His message to NASW's new president:
November 25, 2008
Dear James Kelly,
Several college or university social work departments have recently lost in Federal or state courts for violating the rights and civil liberties of students. Lost means lost - the courts ruled against them for violation of constitutional liberties and the facts are undisputed public record.
In Watts vs Florida International University a Catholic student sued in Federal Court after he was dismissed from his internship, because he advised a grief-stricken Catholic client to attend a Church support group. The court ruled his right to freedom of religous expression was violated by social work professors.
In Booker vs Missouri State a Christian student sued for (again) violation of her religous and civil liberties. The school settled and paid her off and promised to reform itself.
And most recently, in Felkner vs RIC, Bill Felkner, an MSW student at Rhode Island College, sued his social work department for violation of civil liberties. The social work professors forced him to lobby the legislature for progressive causes. The court recently dismissed the defendant's motion to have the case dropped. It goes forward and you can bet RIC will lose too.
Recently, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reported that Laura Bronstein, Chair, Department of Social Work, Binghamton University violated the civil liberties of MSW student Andre Massena. The documents from the school are posted on the website www.thefire.org and it’s clear--the social work professors violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. I suggest you set a precedent and expel Laura Bronstein and censure her actions.
Your organization has done nothing to protect the liberties of students and many social work schools have already lost in court or will lose in the near future. Your organization is building a bad reputation and you should correct it. In addition you should make an intelligent response to the National Association of Scholars report "The Scandal in Social Work Education" and reform the nightmare.
Show some courage and show America the NASW supports the Constitution. If you don’t act now, more troubles will follow. Show leadership and don’t make any excuses about it not being within your control etc...
Want to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Take your shirt off and clean this s**t up!
Peter L Valunas
Peter L Valunas