Teacher Reportedly Takes Pro-Obama Position in Assigning Homework

Mar 22, 2012 5:46pm

The Fairfax County Public Schools system says there are no plans to discipline a middle school teacher after he was reported to have assigned his students work that involved researching the vulnerabilities of the Republicans running for president.

The conservative-leaning Daily Caller website reported Thursday that Liberty Middle School teacher Michael Denman told his eighth-grade students to find “weaknesses” among the GOP candidates and send their results to President Obama’s campaign.

John Torre, a spokesman for the schools system, said the kids weren’t instructed to send their findings to the Democrats. Denman didn’t reply to an email.

The school’s principal, Catherine Cipperly, sat down with Denman after parents complained of the assignment, which had already been completed, Torre said. Denman agreed to give his students the option of doing opposition research for candidates of either party if he assigns similar homework again, Torre said.

The Virginia Education Association provides guidance to teachers on how to assign work related to politics, and it says that teachers “must avoid involving their schools and students” in political activites.

“A government teacher has more latitude to engage students in discussion of political issues or to stage a mock election, for example, as long as the lessons fit the approved curriculum,” the association says in guidance written by its legal director. “Teachers in other content areas would likely be on shakier ground.”

John O’Neil, a spokesman for the VEA, said Denman is not a member of the association.

The Daily Caller quoted a student’s father, who didn’t give his name but said he has conservative leanings, as saying, “I was shocked that a school teacher would so blatantly politicize the curriculum of a middle school classroom.”

“Teachers acting in such manner need to be called out,” he told the publication.

Torre said parents have called for Denman to be fired but that the county has no plans to discipline him.

“There have been plenty of calls on this from parents, community members and from folks outside of the district,” Torre said.

The episode is different but still reminiscent of the furor that erupted among conservative parents when Obama announced that he would be giving a back-to-school speech to be broadcast in classrooms across the country.

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