Nevada Teacher Faces Calls For Termination After Her Son Dresses As Hitler For Halloween

Janet Arsanian, a teacher at Cortney Junior High School, is facing calls for her termination after her son dressed as Adolf Hitler for Halloween.  The controversy rekindles our long debate over the free speech rights of teachers and public employees in controversial statements or actions in their private lives. Arsanian insisted that “we don’t worship Hitler or agree with what he did.” More importantly, there is no allegation that Arsanian has shown any intolerance or inappropriate responses in her role as a teacher.  I share to reaction of many to such a costume as offensive but, as many on this blog know, I tend to follow a robust view of free speech in such controversies.

Arsanian triggered the firestorm in a posting with a picture of her son on a private Boulder City Facebook group. She wrote ‘I’m the proud parent of the boy in the Hitler costume and my son didn’t mean to upset anyone. He needed a last-minute costume and he put that together today. No we don’t worship Hitler or agree with what he did.” The post was later deleted but saved version led to calls for her to fired.

I have previously written about concerns that public employees are increasingly being disciplined for actions in their private lives or views or associations outside of work. We have previously seen teachers (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) students (here, here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here).  This includes Halloween costume controversies.

A fellow educator, Brian Scott, defended his college and said that she is a great teacher and that was likely a misunderstanding: “It’s a kid in a Halloween costume . . . people dress up like the devil and witches and vampires and things like that all the time. Evil things.”

From a free speech perspective, the threshold issue is the right of teachers to hold controversial values or make controversial statements in their private lives.  I have long maintained that teachers should not have to sanitize their lives or views to satisfy majoritarian views.  They should be judged on their actions and performance in their classrooms not their lifestyle or views in their private lives.

What do you think?

54 thoughts on “Nevada Teacher Faces Calls For Termination After Her Son Dresses As Hitler For Halloween”

  1. If you are “offended” because some kid dressed up as Hitler for Halloween, then you have mental issues and should check yourself into a clinic.

  2. Brandy Decker, who lives outside of Boulder City and is a retired teacher with Clark County School District, said she came to Trunk or Treat with her children while visiting friends in town. She said she was in a state of shock when she saw the costume.

    A quondam schoolteacher, not a retired teacher. And it’s not surprising. That’s a trade which collects more than its share of the world’s officious nuisances. Socially-sanctioned aggression is disgusting.

  3. ok how old is this kid? If he is a teen, he should be held responsible for his own actions. However, if he is a pre-teen then the mother should get some backlash but I think being fired is a bit much unless she previously express positive sentimates toward Hitler.

    o

    1. However, if he is a pre-teen then the mother should get some backlash

      It’s a Halloween costume you idiot.

    2. Judging by your outlandish comments, if you wanted to go somewhere as a Nazi, you wouldn’t have to dress up.

      PS The mother expressed no “positive” sentiments about the Nazis btw, but even if she did, so what? I can tell you the Nazi’s for all their evil were an efficient and industrious bunch. They raised an army from scratch, overran their squeamish neighbors and were the preeminent European Power until they got to the English Channel and were stopped butt-cold by a half-American with a will. There’s something positive and true.

      1. Be careful about truth, that never counts for much where anything “nahtzee” is concerned

        I would also claim that it was mostly the Russians that stopped them.

  4. “It’s a kid in a Halloween costume . . . people dress up like the devil and witches and vampires and things like that all the time. Evil things.”

    This unfortunate man has to devote time an effort offering explanations like the above to the drooling idiots harassing the trick-or-treater’s teacher-mother.

  5. I share to reaction of many to such a costume as offensive but, as many on this blog know

    Why? Trivial, prissy, and devoid of humor is no way to go through life.

  6. Maybe mom belongs to The German American Bund. Do you folks on the blog know what that is?
    There is a kid in our neighborhood who is dressing up as Donald Trump for Halloween.
    His sister is dressing up as Hillary. When the parents are punished then both parties can be blamed.
    If the Hitler thing happened in Germany this year then it would be a different free speech matter. The Germans are not capable of free speech or free politics and they have been banned from being Nazis since the end of the war and our occupation. An East German can dress up like Stalin. But not a West German. Yet the two areas of Germany have been united for some time.
    English people should not smoke cigars. They will be seen as Churchill lovers.

    Praise the Lard (on Sunday) and pass the ammunition. Praise Crisco on Monday.

    1. Bund has been defunct since the war. German ethnicity is officially “bad” in America even thought the great Donald J Trump shares it with many of us. And we are un-officially proud of it! Even if the Germans aren’t.

  7. There are many of those that would ban dressing up as witches and other pagan sorts, as that conflicts with the perfect religious society they have determined is the ‘only way’. We live in a very conservative area. When it was becoming apparent that Bush was America’s shame, fourteen years ago or so, I made a harness of clothes hangers for my son’s Halloween costume and attached leafy branches until there was this little bush trundling up and down the walkways of staunch conservative homes.

    On the logging issue, back in the late 60s I worked pulling choker in logging camps as well as planting trees. At that time there were mills and BC lumber was shipped around the world. Japanese firms started to offer ‘deals that some couldn’t refuse’. Whole islands and other tracks next to the coast were clear cut and the logs barged to Japan to feed the Japanese mills. The argument was that the sizes of the lumber used in Japan were different than those typically milled in BC. I also worked in saw mills and watched as the mills calibrated the machinery to cut whatever sizes they wanted. Eventually a lot of mills went out of business, thousands were laid off, and the mills themselves were shipped to Japan. Nature will always find a way; so will greed and stupidity.

      1. Actually Paul, the idea came to me from living in the SF Bay Area. Down by Fisherman’s Wharf there was a guy called the Tree Man. He would crouch behind a tree that he held and that almost obscured him and shake it at passers by. He was for years an installation.

    1. Yes, BC forestry could have been better done. Not clear that Vancouver Island will recover. Hope I am wrong.

      1. David

        If you drive through BC, including the Island, on the paved roads that were gravel logging roads in the 60s, you will pass vast areas of Douglas fir with signs stating that these forests will be logged and replanted in this or that year. The process of logging has improved over time and for every square mile logged another has to be planted. I planted several thousand trees back in the day, lots of stories there.

        Canada is somewhat responsible but given the freedoms of making a buck duking it out with government oversight, a lot of damage gets done along with the conservation. Now, the problem is first growth tree poachers. They slip into the forest and drop trees that are hundreds of years old, sometimes just for firewood. The expression, ‘dumb as a tree’ is insulting to the tree.

      1. Karen

        It could have been an expression of adoration, depending on one’s interpretation. You have revealed yours. The kid was only interested in having fun. So, I piggybacked, not a statement, just a reference to Bush’s nickname in Texas when he was Governor, ‘Little Brush’. History has quieted down almost all Republicans when it comes to the ‘Little Brush’.

  8. I think people calling for the teacher’s punishment for her son’s costume honor Hitler’s memory and deeds more than anything the teacher did. The irony is lost on them somehow. Positively Gumpian.

    1. It is poetic justice for dictators to be mocked. Punishing a kid for dressing up as Hitler sounds a bit like the backlash against Halloween costumes that feature war bonnets, as not being respectful enough to Native Americans. I understand that Hitler’s image conjures up traumatic connotations. But who decides when it is no longer too soon? People dress up as Ghengis Khan, who was one of the most prolific rapists and pillagers of all time. So much so that an extraordinary percentage of Asians bear his DNA. If we ever discover time travel, bring your mace.

      They should have an annual festival celebrating the fall of the Reich portraying Hitler as a bumbling clown and make a day of ridiculing him.

          1. Paul S.,
            I agree! If I had more free time, I’d give it a whirl.

            You’re into film! I think you’d make a great parody!

  9. I think dressing as Hitler for Halloween is certainly in poor taste. I don’t think someone should loose their job over this. Just let the court of public opinion have its due.

  10. “What do you think?”
    ~+~
    Why can’t people just leave others alone? Why must everyone be punished and when punished the only sanction mentioned is termination of their employment.? It’s the same thing every time.

    What is the answer to this problem? One might be to simply live our lives in the manner of our own choosing and if someone demands we be fired for doing nothing wrong we should dig in our heals, flash them a double-handed one finger salute, and do exactly the opposite of what they want. They’re going to be pissed off no matter what so why should we constrain ourselves or our own sense of what is good or enjoyable?

    Giving in to these harpies serves only to embolden them and bequeaths them power. Give them nothing.

  11. Halloween, the time of monsters and all that is evil. What better choice than the leader of the National Socialists? Better yet add another dressed as Stalin for International Socialism.

    That leaves only a choice of the third for Progressive Socialism.

    Tie between Bloody Chuck Schumer, Benita Pelosillyni and or B. Fineslime and others I’d pick LBJ myself dressed as Hillary Clinton.

    Since 1909 the War Monger Party of the USA has not shirked in providing monsters hiding under the beds or in the closets of our nations (male) youth.

    Definitely the day for DNC to celebrate.

    1. Chinggis Khan, a better choice for the biggest mass murderer of all tim
      unless you count Mao as responsible for the great famine deaths.
      Which is debatable.

  12. What’s wrong with just letting kids be kids? I was a cowboy, a policeman, a soldier and a logger…all of which somebody could find fault with in this hyper-sensitive day and age. Our parents let us choose our own costumes and our mother helped put them together. It never would never have occurred to them that their kids’ Halloween costumes could jeopardize their jobs. Bloody ridiculous!

        1. David, My father was a logger in the “Redwood Empire” of No Calif, and my uncles were commercial fishermen. Those industries are all but gone, due to over-harvesting of resources. But it wasn’t the workers. The lumber mills were owned by multi-national corporations that engaged in clear-cutting and failed to engage in any meaningful reforestation. They had no interest in sustainable forest practices because once they wiped-out an area, they just packed up their machinery and moved further north. And the Calif Dept of Forestry was more interested in short-term tax revenues than protecting the resources for future generations, so there was no effective oversight. When I was in high school, there were 17 lumber mills running 24 hours a day. Now there is one, a family owned operation which replants as many trees as it harvests, and a pulp mill owned by the Chinese.

          1. Yup.

            But in the old days, loggers were the lowest class. For example, BC Ferries had separate accommodations for men, women and loggers. Not highly regarded despite the fact that the economy depended upon their labour.

            1. David: There was a time when single men, many from Scotland and Ireland were recruited to work in the woods. They were a rowdy bunch and would live in logging camps during the week, and come into town on weekends to drink and fight. But that is ancient history. When I was growing up, loggers were typically married men with nice homes and families. Socially, they were at the high end of the working class because their jobs took skill, were well paid, and extremely dangerous. Mill work wasn’t as highly regarded because it was routine and didn’t require much skill, although as the timber industry declined, even those jobs came to be prized.

          2. TIN:

            I assume that you are talking about Eureka, CA.

            Used to run that pulp mill on the Samoa Peninsula.

            We sold it to the Chinese because the Air Quality Board and a local DA (Paul Gallegos) made it too difficult to do business in Humboldt County.

            They eliminated hundreds of high paying jobs.

            Now the kids of the mill workers wait on tables and sell T-shirts.

            Downward mobility as a result of the regulatory climate.

            1. Monumentguy – You’re right, I grew up in Eureka when it had a stable economy and one forest worker’s salary could comfortably support a wife and three kids. The destruction of logging and fishing drove many young people out of the area. Neither me nor any of my siblings or cousins stayed there after high school due to lack of opportunities. And when I go back and visit my parents, it’s sad to see the once middle class homes looking so shabby and all the homeless people walking around, looking for anything they can steal. I always thought I would retire there, but there’s no chance I would move back at this point. We were there for five generations, but the mismanaged economy and liberal attitude towards drugs and all the destruction that comes with it drove us out.

          3. That is why conservation is so critical. Resources can be managed as a valuable commodity, but not when you have the tragedy of the commons.

            When the Dept of Forestry enabled over logging there were few repercussions to over logging. And fishing is extremely difficult to conserve. All it takes is one county taking everything it can catch to undo all the efforts of everyone else.

            My preference would be for monoculture tree farms to be considered separate from diverse national forests. By all means harvest the deadwood to prevent the buildup of fuel, but otherwise, different types of forests need to be managed differently. There are forests maintained for diversity and old growth, in the very few areas where there is old growth left, as a national treasure. And then there are logging resources managed more like cropland.

            One of the problems with planted trees is developing a deep root system. Most modern methods of tree planting yields trees that have drastically shortened lifespans and tangled root systems. Some interesting reading can be found at groassis.com. There are also many videos on planting trees with deep root systems. Planting nursery trees in teeny, tiny, shallow pots won’t cut it. There are also a few steps to planting young seedlings that can help develop a natural, rigorous root system.

            As for the monoculture logging crops, there is a vulnerability to planting too many of the same species together. It can attract plagues of pests that can wipe out vast tracts.

            True Old Growth forests are quite rare. Old Growth refers to the forest itself, not just old trees. You can walk beneath them, even in the rain forest, because the dense canopy shades out all the competing young trees and shrubs below. Old Growth is extremely hard to find in the rain forest, where humans have been slashing and burning, even in remote areas in indigenous regions, for centuries. They are like found jewels that should be protected.

            1. Karen – It was the cut & run logging industry that destroyed fishing in No. Cal. The clear cut logging operations never rebuilt the stream beds, making it impossible for salmon to migrate upstream to spawn. The timber harvest plans approved by the CA Dept of Forestry required stream restoration, but the penalties for failing to do so were so small that it was cheaper to pay the fine and move on to the next clear cut operation. I recall a few lawsuits by Indian tribes that depended on salmon for subsistence, but they have casinos now, so maybe they no longer care.

              1. I remember hearing about that. There was a lot of mismanagement, mainly failing to properly conserve and maintain resources. I oppose allowing foreign interests to buy our natural resources, especially strategic natural resources like Uranium.

                I have some family who work in trucking. CA takes the “let them eat cake” approach to how business owners are supposed to absorb sometimes capricious regulations. Some of the changes are harmful to the engines, as well.

                If you want to read a humorous account of a hapless land owners trying to work with a CA Coastal Commission, read on: http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2013/03/another-california-coastal-commission-horror-story.html

                1. Karen, Thanks for the link on the CA Coastal Commission. Funny, except if you’re the one having to deal with them!

            2. Karen S – I was traveling somewhere that they had planted Christmas trees. It was fascinating to see the levels of growth from year to year of the trees. And you could see they were cutting some at various levels but allowing some to grow taller. It really is a managed business. 😉

  13. Teenagers dress up as Vampires, Michael, Jason, Freddy Krueger…did anyone believe they condoned nearly immortal sadistic killers? No. Is there any evidence that the teacher or her family are Neo Nazis? Do these same people have problems with actors portraying Hitler in movies and plays?

    If this was just a kid dressed up as a monster for Halloween, then the reaction is irrational. They did this to Prince Harry, too.

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