Teacher may loose job because she had a pic of the president in her room

Discussion in 'Politics' started by MissSthrnBelle, Oct 3, 2004.

  1. MissSthrnBelle
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    MissSthrnBelle Rookie

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    Teacher defends pic of president


    Published in the Home News Tribune 10/03/04
    By JERRY BARCA
    and DINA GUIRGUIS
    STAFF WRITERS
    SOUTH BRUNSWICK: A middle school teacher walked out on her job after being asked to remove a picture of the president from her classroom, she said.

    Though she says he has not resigned, the teacher's situation at Crossroads Middle School South is not yet resolved.

    Shiba Pillai-Diaz's walkout involved the local police, left school officials mum and appalled the local Republican Party.

    Pillai-Diaz, 33, a volunteer with the Bush campaign and an English teacher, has had a publicity picture of the First Couple hanging in her classroom since the start of the school year, she said.

    The photo became an issue last week.

    Parents e-mailed an assistant principal accusing Pillai-Diaz of suppressing free speech because the teacher refused to talk to pupils about why the color photo hung in the room.

    "Students said, 'You like George Bush? He's killed people,' " Pillai-Diaz said. "As a rule I don't talk about my politics in the classroom."

    According to Pillai-Diaz, Assistant Principal Mark Daniels said he had no problem with the photo, which hung next to posters of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. But Daniels told the teacher she should address questions that arose because of the photo.

    "He wasn't giving me the power to direct conversation in my classroom," said Pillai-Diaz, who regarded the picture just as an image of the current president.

    Thursday, at back-to-school night, the controversy exploded after a parent asked why the picture was up, Pillai-Diaz said.

    "The way she asked was a political assault," the teacher said.

    Then the parents started their own debate about the picture, and one mother stormed out of the classroom, Pillai-Diaz said.

    Friday morning, the teacher, who is in her sixth year of teaching and her first in South Brunswick, was called into the assistant principal's office. Daniels told her to remove the picture, Pillai-Diaz said.

    "He said, 'If you care about your job, you'll take the picture down,' " she said.

    Pillai-Diaz told the assistant principal to take the picture down himself. Then she sought Principal Jim Warfel, who gave her an upbraiding.

    "He said, 'You've caused more disruption, hatred and anger than anyone I've ever known,' " she said.

    The teacher said the principal told her to "get out," so she left and headed to the South Brunswick Police Department.

    An officer accompanied Pillai-Diaz back to the school because she said she feared for her safety when she went to collect her belongings, police said.

    Once Pillai-Diaz felt safe at the school the officer left, police said.

    In the school, Pillai-Diaz had a two-hour meeting with Superintendent Gary McCartney and a representative from the teachers' union. Both parties told the teacher she would lose any fight she would try to start about the picture, Pillai-Diaz said.

    "They weren't interested in the substance of the issue," she said.

    The superintendent said no one has resigned, been fired or suspended. McCartney would not discuss the incident, calling it a personnel matter.

    When reached Friday night, Sylvia Lee, president of the teachers' union, said no teacher had been fired and she didn't know about the incident. Lee did not return multiple telephone messages left for her yesterday.

    Board of Education President Robert Long declined to comment on the incident, calling it a personnel matter.

    He did say he could not find any district policy addressing the presence of pictures of presidents in classrooms. He said it would be too early to tell whether the incident merited a policy change.

    "We don't want to develop a policy for something that is not needed," Long said. "Whatever the facts may be, it is something we will certainly take a look at if needed."

    Democrats dominate South Brunswick's government, holding the Mayor's Office and three of the four council seats.

    Of the 40,000 people living in the township, about 5,000 are registered Republicans. Registered Democrats outnumber them by a 3-to-2 margin, said local Republican officials.

    "It's horrible that a teacher was asked to take down a picture of the president of the United States," said Dawn Smith, chair of the local Republican Committee. "It's unconscionable."

    Smith said she would expect the same procedures to apply whether it was President Bush or former President Clinton.

    "When did we stop honoring our country's leaders?" Smith asked.

    Pillai Diaz said the only way school officials may have known she was a Republican is because she could not attend a meeting with teachers on the day she volunteered at the Republican National Convention in New York.

    "I never once said 'I am a Republican' or 'I support the president,' " Pillai-Diaz said.

    Pillai-Diaz turned in the keys to her classroom on Friday. She packed up the picture and her classroom decorations, taking them with her when she left. She is unsure about her future employment, but said she is supposed to speak with district officials about it tomorrow.

    "My ultimate goal is to teach," she said.

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  2. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    A teacher that cannot/will not answer questions about something she/he has displayed in her/his room, should be fired.
     
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  3. Avatar4321
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    Avatar4321 Diamond Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Its the President of the United States. Why shouldnt a teacher be allowed to hang a picture of the President in a classroom? These kids are supposed to be learning arent they? Considering there are a number of people who cant identify the President this sounds like a good idea.
     
  4. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    So the teacher, weak though she might be, couldn't say, "This is the President of the US and his wife? That is why I hung it?" Now, personally, I can think of better arguments, though I wouldn't do so, in an election year.
     
  5. Jimmyeatworld
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    Jimmyeatworld Silver Member

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    I think this whole damn thing is silly. This is a picture of a sitting President in an American classroom. Why should there have been questions asked to begin with? If this were 5 years ago, do you see anyone storming out of a classroom because a picture of a sex fiend was on the wall in a room where children see it all day? It's political BS, plain and simple.
     
  6. Jimmyeatworld
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    Jimmyeatworld Silver Member

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    True, the teacher should have said that, but it doesn't change the fact that it shouldn't have been an issue to begin with.
     
  7. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Sorry Jimmy, we agree on most things, but I teach the same grade level. Everything, I hang in my room is open for discussion/arguement. All is curriculum driven. As it should be. A middle school, even secondary school teacher's job is not to convert but to teach thinking skills to. I have my take, but my challenge is to teach the children to think it through logically.

    If I am instead 'converting' or 'brainwashing' I'm not fit to teach your kids. What if I'm far left, far right, hate driven, ????
     
  8. Jimmyeatworld
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    Jimmyeatworld Silver Member

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    There was a picture of the President in my classroom when I was in elementary school, and there was nothing to debate because it was a picture of the President of the United States. Now, if this were in 2000 before the election, or if it were a picture of John Kerry this year, I would see the problem. I just think it's sad when a teacher puts up a picture of the President of the United States and phrases like "brainwashing" start coming up. It's not like the students are going to be voting anyway.

    I don't know. Maybe if I were a teacher I would see it differently, but as it is I don't see why there should be such a commotion about it.
     
  9. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    1) A picture of the ELECTED leader of this country in a PUBLIC school funded by US taxpayer money should never even be an issue.

    2) Students asking a question about something in THEIR classroom, whether hung by a teacher or the school itself, deserves an answer.

    3) Parents asking about items, pictures, or anything else in a classroom need to ensure that its just a question, not an attack because they may disagree with it.

    This is a ridiculous issue and I hope the teacher gets positive results from whatever may happen.
     
  10. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    I agree with you DK, would add any teacher, including private/parochial. Got to be able to rationalize what you do.
     

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