Teacher Disciplined for Voicing Political Views in Classroom

March 14, 2006 — Jay Bennish returns to class. See

The Denver Post

.

100 students at Overland High School in Aurora, CO, walked out of class this morning to protest disciplinary action against teacher Jay Bennish.

Bennish has been placed on administrative leave after school officials were presented with a tape recording made by a student in his 10th grade geography class.

The student complained that Bennish made "controversial anti-U.S. comments" and that he likened a phrase from President Bush’s State of the Union Address to a speech made by Hitler.

Cherry Creek School District Superintentent Monte Moses (named the American Association of School Administrators’ Colorado Superintendent of the Year in 2005) has approached the issue cautiously, citing the need to present multiple viewpoints in the classroom and acknowledging that "people make mistakes."

Since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, educators have increasingly been attacked for criticizing government policies. Rarely has a teacher been reprimanded for supporting the President and the government. This trend corresponds with the campaign by conservative activist David Horowitz and Students for Academic Freedom to promote an "Academic Bill of Rights" to correct what they view as "liberal bias" in education. They encourage students to report on faculty members who express "liberal" political views.

This McCarthy-esque zeal for rooting out "agitators" can be witnessed in the recent drive to expose "radical professors" at UCLA. NCAC opposes these actions or any kind of political litmus test in the classroom, and has joined with the American Association of University Professors to oppose the "Academic Bill of Rights."

Political tensions appear to be running especially high in the state of Colorado these days. We have seen an escalating number of cases in which different viewpoints come harshly under fire there, from the Ward Churchill controversy to a recent fiasco in which a teacher was suspended for screening 10 minutes of Faust in her classroom.

In some of these situations, the press (most notably "The O’Reilly Factor") has only stoked the flames of misundertanding by grossly misrepresenting and exaggerating the matter at hand with reports that generate all heat and no light.

Here’s an alarming selection from The Conservative Voice:

Meanwhile, here’s a sobering comment from a student at Overland High School in support of Mr. Bennish, posted on The Peoria Pundit:

Administrators at Overland have said that an investigation into Mr. Bennish’s comments will take approximately one week, after which they will decide whether his actions merit further disciplinary measures. We will monitor this case as it develops, but here’s what you can do right away:

Read the school district’s statement, and keep an eye on the news (and this page) for developments.

Write to the school district to express your solidarity with Mr. Bennish:
Superintendent Monte Moses
c/o Cherry Creek Schools
4700 South Yosemite Street
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

Or you can email Superintendent Moses.

Register your views in a poll being conducted by the local CBS station.

Listen to or read excerpts from Bennish’s remarks for yourself, courtesy of blogger Michelle Malkin.