We have another video raising questions over the rules relating to free speech for students in high school. This video (below) was taken in North Rowan High School in North Carolina where a teacher screams at a student that he can be arrested for disrespecting President Obama. The teacher went ballistic after a student responded to the account of Mitt Romney bullying a student as a teen by noting that President Obama admitted that he had bullied a student in his youth. [Update: the teacher has been suspended pending investigation].
In my view, the class seemed unruly and the students were combative with the teacher. However, the teacher seemed equally unruly and more importantly misstated the law on comments about the president. Notably, the student was right on both the law and the facts on bullying.
After the student notes that Obama admitted to bullying a girl, the teacher screams “Do you realize that people were arrested for saying things bad about Bush?” She tells the student and the class that “you are not supposed to slander the president.” The student correctly states that you can only be arrested for threatening the president, but the teacher will hear none of it. She insists that it is ok to call Romney a bully but not Obama because the former is running for president while the latter is president. Accordingly, under the teacher’s rather mutated view of civics and constitutional law, “there is no comparison.”
The teacher sounds increasingly unhinged and screams that the men are not “equal” and adds “Let me tell you something … you will not disrespect the president of the United States in this classroom.”
What concerns me is how such misinformation is conveyed to students who shape their views of basic liberties in our public schools. I feel it is appropriate for teachers in high school to lead discussions about politics, which can obviously get partisan and unruly. I also believe that it is important for the teachers to enforce civility rules. However, alleging that the President or Romney was a bully is not uncivil. It is a contemporary issue in the presidential election. It happens to be an excellent issue to raise in class to show that bullying can cause not just immediate but later problems for students. It also allows for a discussion how relevant such bullying is to the question of character to lead the nation. The key is to control the discussion while getting the law and facts right.
Source: Salisbury as first seen on Reddit.