Teacher Says Thanking Students for Standing for Pledge Got Him Banned from School
Could a substitute teacher be banned from teaching at a school for thanking students who stood for the pledge? At least one Missouri teacher says “yes.”
According to KTVI-TV, 66-year-old Jim Furkin can no longer teach at Parkway South High School in the St. Louis-area community of Manchester after offering a statement of thanks to students who stood for the Pledge of Allegiance — due to allegations that he was bullying those who didn’t.
Furkin admits to the basic facts of the case but denies that he was bullying the students.
“The PA announcer says, ‘Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance,’” Furkin said.
“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.”
However, at least one of the students who didn’t stand says that he was bullied — and the district seems to agree.
Furkin, who’s been with the school district for about 10 years, and filled in at Parkway South almost daily for five, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, will no longer be allowed to teach there.
The teacher, KTVI said, “compared his action to complimenting the hairstyle of one board member but not the others and then being banned from future meetings because he’d bullied the other board members.”
“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,” Furkin said.
The school, however, says there was more to do with Furkin’s suspension than the teacher was letting on.
“We proudly recite our Pledge of Allegiance in all Parkway schools and classrooms,” a letter to parents stated. “Students choose to participate, which is their right, and our role as educators is not to make a judgment about that choice. While we cannot share details of individual personnel matters, we would not recommend that a substitute teacher be restricted from a school simply based on a single isolated incident such as this. Several factors, including prior concerns at other schools, would be taken into consideration before making a recommendation.”
The school contends that Furkin had “a pattern of inappropriate conduct.”
“The employee was previously restricted from another Parkway high school for recording video of students without their permission in class,” the letter said. “In addition, he violated appropriate teacher-to-student interactions by sharing his personal contact information with students at South High. Based on previous concerns from staff and students, the principal of South High addressed these matters with the substitute teacher. The substitute was coached and reminded of his professional obligations.”
Furkin disputes that. According to the Post-Dispatch, he said he took a photo of students at the request of another teacher so the other teacher could see which students were participating in an assignment.
He also said the personal contact information bit stems from sharing his Twitter account with students. He claims “inappropriate images” showed up there due to being hacked.
It’s also worth noting that none of this seemed to warrant dismissal until after the issue regarding the pledge of allegiance reared its head.
“Over 10 years, six to eight hours a day, will something crop up? Absolutely. Every sub has something crop up,” Furkin told the Post-Dispatch. “I think for my full body of work over 10 years, I’ve probably hit 99.9 percent.”
Furkin can still work at other schools, according to Breitbart. However, according to legal experts cited by the media, the school district probably has the legal right to terminate the teacher’s right to teach.
“The district has a lot of latitude in terms of directing their teacher in what to say and how to conduct curriculum,” Gregory Magarian, a law professor at Washington University, told the Post-Dispatch. “Certainly, what this guy said was very much in the context of the school day and conducting the class.”
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