Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Teacher's Indiscretion: Comparing Bush To Hitler

Colorado high school teacher Jay Bennish was suspended from his classroom because of remarks that he made comparing President Bush's policies to those of Adolph Hitler. [You can listen to a student's secret recording of the teacher's provocative tirade right here.]
At least 150 Overland High School students walked out of class today to protest administrators' decision to put a teacher on leave while they investigate remarks he made about President Bush during class, including that some people compare Bush to Adolf Hitler.

Cherry Creek School District administrators were investigating whether geography teacher Jay Bennish violated a policy requiring balancing viewpoints in the classroom, district spokeswoman Tustin Amole said.

Amole said Bennish was placed on administrative leave Wednesday to avoid further disruption at the school in this east Denver suburb.

She said the school had heard rumors about the protest, which included some students who objected to Bennish's comments. Students were told to return to class, but she said no disciplinary action was taken.

"It was peaceful. The students yelled, but there was no fighting," Amole said. "Most of them did return to class." Sophomore Sean Allen recorded about 20 minutes of Bennish's class during a Feb. 1 discussion about Bush's State of the Union speech and gave the recording to his father, who complained to the principal, Amole said.

"After listening to the tape, it's evident the comments in the class were inappropriate. There were not adequate opportunities for opposing points of view," she said.

A telephone number listed for Bennish, who has been teaching social studies and American history at Overland since 2000, had been disconnected.

No action has been taken against Bennish, Amole said. She said the investigation should be complete by late next week while officials continue to talk to students, parents and faculty members.

Amole said Bennish told school officials he had received threats as news of the allegations spread, but she did not speculate on what the threats were and who made them.

She said he was the subject of similar complaints a few years ago, but said that case was resolved after Bennish met with a parent and the school principal.

Allen stayed home from school today to avoid any backlash, Amole said.
I think that Bennish's rant was clearly out-of-bounds. His remarks were uttered not within the confines of a private institution, but in a public school.

What will happen?

My guess is that the most likely consequence that Bennish will receive for his actions will be a few days suspension and the placement of a letter of reprimand in his personnel file. Dismissal is unlikely, as the district will take the view that his utterances did not rise to the level of inappropriateness that would necessitate his permanent removal from the classroom.

Related: Intercepts

See this week's Carnival Of Education right here and our latest education-related posts over there.