A substitute teacher says he was banned from a Missouri high school after a student claimed he felt bullied when the teacher thanked students for standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jim Furkin had worked as a substitute teacher for the past ten years in the Parkway School District in St. Louis County.
In October he was overseeing a freshman English class when it came time to recite the Pledge of Allegiance
“The PA announcer says please rise for the pledge of allegiance,” Furkin told television station Fox 2. “I say ‘let’s go’. The kids get up, 24 kids in class and 22 got up. I say, ‘thank you very much, all of you that participated. I appreciate that. I’m sure all of those families that lost loved ones so we could have the freedoms we have today would appreciate that, too.’ That’s what I said.”
Furkin said that a student left the classroom and went to a counselor’s office and complained. A school administrator told the substitute teacher the student had been “hurt” by his remarks.
The following day Furkin said he was banned from the school building.
“I just think that I would try to convey something like that to the kids who just take everything for granted. That flag is not to be taken for granted, in my opinion. It is our symbol of freedom,” Furkin said.
Kelly Educational Staffing, the agency the school district uses to book substitutes, told him that he wasn’t being allowed back to the school because he had “bullied” a student, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The school district confirmed there was an incident in the classroom regarding the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It is worth noting that during the recent incident regarding the pledge, the substitute’s comments caused disruption during class. By praising certain students for standing, the students who made the decision not to stand were humiliated and then teased,” Supt. Keith Marty said in a letter to parents. “The class environment did not cultivate an atmosphere of learning and acceptance of the views and values of others. As you know, our mission and vision are integral parts of teaching and learning in Parkway.”
The superintendent also alleged there was more to the story — claiming the substitute teacher had a “pattern of inappropriate conduct in the classroom.”
I find that allegation very hard to believe.
Furkin was a 10-year veteran substitute teacher for the district — working nearly every day at one of the high schools. If there were really issues with his classroom conduct, why did the district continue to put him back in the classroom?
I suspect this is really about a school district punishing a patriotic teacher because they were afraid of offending an unpatriotic child.
Ironically, the Parkway South High School athletic teams are known as the “Patriots.”
Here’s the superintendent’s letter in its entirety:
Dear South High parents and staff,
As you may know, a South High substitute teacher publicly made comments regarding his employment through Kelly Services. We were in the process of following up on his statement at our school board meeting, when a news story was published last night.
We shared the statement below with news media outlets earlier today and wanted to share this with you as well.
“We proudly recite our Pledge of Allegiance in all Parkway schools and classrooms. Students choose to participate, which is their right, and our role as educators is not to make a judgment about that choice. While we cannot share details of individual personnel matters, we would not recommend that a substitute teacher be restricted from a school simply based on a single isolated incident such as this. Several factors, including prior concerns at other schools, would be taken into consideration before making a recommendation.”
We always try to protect the privacy of everyone involved during these matters. However, there has been an omission of important facts in this case. The truth is, we recommended that this substitute not return due to a pattern of inappropriate conduct.
The employee was previously restricted from another Parkway high school for recording video of students without their permission in class. In addition, he violated appropriate teacher-to-student interactions by sharing his personal contact information with students at South High. Based on previous concerns from staff and students, the principal of South High addressed these matters with the substitute teacher. The substitute was coached and reminded of his professional obligations.
Unfortunately, he did not maintain the high standards we expect of adults who work with our children. It is worth noting that during the recent incident regarding the pledge, the substitute’s comments caused disruption during class. By praising certain students for standing, the students who made the decision not to stand were humiliated and then teased. The class environment did not cultivate an atmosphere of learning and acceptance of the views and values of others. As you know, our mission and vision are integral parts of teaching and learning in Parkway.
We take great care in every personnel matter as these decisions impact our students in the classroom each day. We appreciate the trust you place in us to make the best decisions for your children.
Dr. Keith Marty