Maine Public School Teacher Uses Class for Blatantly Political Message; School Says Reaction is Unfair

Maine Public School Teacher Uses Class for Blatantly Political Message; School Says Reaction is Unfair
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Maine, like every other state in the nation, has a compulsory education law. Title 20-A §5001-A of the Maine Revised Statutes requires that all “Persons 6 years of age or older and under 17 years of age shall attend a public day school during the time it is in regular session.” Various provisions follow, allowing alternative instruction in private schools of approved home schooling programs. At least facially, the Pine Tree State’s compulsory education laws seem no more onerous than those of other states.¹

Article VIII, section 1, of the state Constitution specifies that “the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools.” And the state’s Freedom of Access Law specifies that:

The public’s right to information about government activities lies at the heart of a democratic government. The Maine Freedom of Access Act (“FOAA”) grants the people of this state a broad right of access to public records while protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens. The act also ensures the accountability of the government to the citizens of the state by requiring public access to the meetings of public bodies. Transparency and open decision-making are fundamental principles of the Maine Freedom of Access Act, and they are essential to ensuring continued trust and confidence in our government.

The James F Doughty School, part of the Bangor, Maine, public schools, lists its faculty and staff, all the way through the custodians, on its website. Thus, privacy concerns cannot be said to exist concerning the identity of the public school’s teachers.

Which brings us to this, from the Bangor Daily News:

Bangor teacher faces backlash after lesson on race is shared to pro-Trump Facebook page

by Eesha Pendharkar | September 9, 2020

A seventh-grade teacher at Bangor’s James F. Doughty School became the target of online vitriol over the holiday weekend after a parent shared a video lesson she delivered about racial privilege and identity to a pro-Trump Facebook group.

The incident showed the polarized reaction that’s possible as Bangor teachers start delivering diversity and equity education to students this school year as one of a number of actions the school system promised to address racism in the city’s schools.

The parent’s sharing of the video to the Facebook group — a violation of school department policy — and the “hateful comments and vitriol targeted at the teacher have unsettled many,” Superintendent Betsy Webb said Monday in an email to parents. She called for “support and kindness” as the city’s teachers deliver the new training and start a school year during which they’re teaching both online and in person.

“Educators must know that they will not be subjected to this type of treatment and that they will not be recorded and posted to social media,” Webb said. “Let’s all commit to talk with one another and to pick up the phone if you have concerns.”

If the “video lesson” is not only recorded, but delivered to students by a government school, which students are required, by law, to attend, how can any “school department policy” forbid the recording of such lessons and those recordings shared over whatever media the citizen of Maine have available to them?

Last week, parent Bill Kimball recorded part of the teacher’s lesson as she discussed race- and gender-based privilege and posted it to a Facebook page for Maine Trump supporters, calling it “unbelievable.”

In the shared video clip, the teacher talked to students about how race and gender shape their identities and their treatment in society. As a white woman, the teacher explained, she does not face racial discrimination but has faced sexism.

“The fact that my race is white is part of my privileged identity,” she said. “Race is not something that gets in the way of me getting a job or puts me in danger, whereas my gender being female is something I have to think about and might be one of my more targeted identities.”

Given that public school teachers are predominantly female, it’s a bit difficult to think that her sex might cause her problems in “getting a job.”

Before Kimball removed it from the pro-Trump Facebook page, the video had been shared about 200 times and several commenters had called for the teacher to be fired.

The teacher, whose name is not mentioned in the Bangor Daily News article, provided a clearly political ‘lesson,’ the evidence of it being political coming in the responses to it.

Dave Huber, formerly a high school teacher and currently an Associate Editor of The College Fix, wrote:

Here’s the deal: The Kimballs have every right to watch any video assigned to their child to view. What they should have done first in this case, however, is contact the teacher and/or the principal to discuss the situation.

If they did not get any satisfaction from the teacher and principal, they then go higher … to the superintendent. If their concerns still aren’t addressed, then go to the (social) media.

Mr Huber may have been too kind, but as I am personally aware, a (now-deceased) commenter on my previous website once threatened to report Mr Huber to his high school administration, claiming that Mr Huber’s political views made him unfit to teach public school students. I was forced to ban that commenter, something I was loath to do, and I eventually closed the site. I can see why Mr Huber, whom I have met personally, would be concerned about protecting teachers’ jobs.

Make no mistake — their concerns are legitimate. For example, the district’s racial and equity training for staff is being done by a group called Racial Equity & Justice whose leaders have organized Black Lives Matter protests. The group’s now-defunct Twitter account had retweeted this message:

“Woke” went from being a term used to raise awareness around police brutality & the rate at which police are killing unarmed Black ppl to being a term of derision used by the white establishment to mock the notion of social consciousness. Coincidence? No, just regular racism.

One point is certainly true: I do use the term #woke to mock the idiocy of today’s left. I shall confess to sometimes “ironic usage” of the term. To put it bluntly, I think that the ‘woke’² are just boneheadedly stupid. But the left always cry raaaaacism when challenged.

If RE&J’s playbook comes from the school of DiAngelo/Kendi/Singleton/et. al. — and it sure seems that way — parents should be hyper-vigilant about what’s being fed to their children, let alone what teachers are being “trained” in.

If district teachers and administrators thumb their noses at such vigilance, parents should have their kids refuse to participate in any diversity/equity lessons. If the children get penalized, parents should contact the federal Department of Education Office for Civil Rights for satisfaction.

One problem is time. Talking to the teacher and principal, waiting to see their response, then going to the superintendent if there is no initial satisfaction, then the school board, etc, all takes time, time in which a teacher may well continue to push blatantly political messages on students, students who are forced by law to attend those classes.

It ought to be obvious: public school teachers should not be taking sides in political debates in classes, and should not be presenting politically-loaded or one-sides lessons. More, public school lessons ought to be considered public records, freely accessible to the taxpayers who support those teachers and their lessons. Teachers and school administrators need to be held accountable for pushing politics on students.
¹ – Full disclosure: I attended public school in Portland, Maine when I was in the third grade.
² – From Wikipedia:

Woke (/ˈwk/) as a political term of African-American origin refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. It is derived from the African-American Vernacular English expression “stay woke“, whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues.
By the late 2010s, woke had been adopted as a more generic slang term broadly associated with left-wing politics and cultural issues (with the terms woke culture and woke politics also being used). It has been the subject of memes and ironic usage. Its widespread use since 2014 is a result of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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