When Missouri substitute teacher Jim Furkin thanked students for standing for the Pledge of Allegiance recently, he had no idea he would be booted from the St. Louis school where he taught just for doing that.
Furkin’s ouster has led partners to create an on-line petition opposing the school’s action.
Furkin, 66, recalled the incident at Parkway South High School for station KTVI. First, he said, the announcement came over the public address system that it was time for the Pledge.
“I say, ‘Let’s go.” The kids get up — 24 kids in class — and 22 got up. I say, ‘Thank you very much, all of you that participated. I appreciate that. I’m sure all of those families that lost loved ones so we could have the freedoms we have today would appreciate that, too.’ That’s what I said.”
But school officials put a different spin on his actions.
“By praising certain students for standing, the students who made the decision not to stand were humiliated and then teased,” said school district spokeswoman Cathy Kelly, according to KMOV.
“The class environment did not cultivate an atmosphere of learning and acceptance of the views and values of others. As you know, our mission and vision are integral parts of teaching and learning in Parkway,” she said.
Furkin said that he had no opportunity to explain himself, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
He said a school administrator told him a student was “hurt” by the comments.
“I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, that wasn’t my intent at all,’” Furkin said. “He said ‘We’ll get back to you,’ and then the next day after that, I’m no longer welcome in the building.”
He said Kelly Educational Staffing, the agency the school district uses to book substitute teachers, said he had “bullied” a student.
Furkin said that was not his intent.
“I just think that I would try to convey something like that to the kids who just take everything for granted. That flag is not to be taken for granted, in my opinion. It is our symbol of freedom,” he said.
Furkin, who has taught at the school as a substitute for several years, received support from parents. More than 800 people have signed an on-line petition calling for him to be allowed to return to the school.
“Mr Furkin was recently fired from Parkway South high school because he had thanked students for standing for the pledge of allegiance,” the petition reads.
“For me and the people I have heard from in this situation it is unfair for a man to lose (his) job over a situation like that. The goal of this petition is for me and the Park South community to show our overall appreciation for Mr. Furkin’s work over the years. If Mr Furkin is reading this, Thank you for your hard work over the years,” it read.
The school said there were other incidents with Furkin that culminated in his dismissal.
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