You might recall back in 2008 when Diantha Harris, a teacher from a North Carolina grade school, made a YouTube splash for having verbally berated a soldier's young daughter that said in class she was for John McCain instead of Barack Obama for president. Of course the righty blogs immediately went wild for the story, but eventually the Old Media came to the teacher's rescue and reported that the teacher never meant any harm. The story appeared on cable and local TV for several days last November.
Well, last month another teacher found himself making news -- or not making it as the case may be -- for having been fired because he is a conservative. Lawrence, Kansas teacher Tim Latham was fired early last month, he claims for being a conservative, yet the Old Media even in Kansas has been very quiet on the story.
Early in May, Lawrence High School of Lawrence, Kansas fired government and history teacher Tim Latham. Latham charges that District 912 fired him because he is a conservative and many of his students have since rallied to his defense. Some 200 of them joined a FaceBook page in support and four appeared at a school board meeting on June 8 to advocate for their favorite teacher.
One reason given for the firing is that Mr. Latham did not show Obama's inauguration live in his class and another is that staff members disparaged him for supporting Republicans during the late presidential race, most especially then vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin.
Meredith Richey, member, Kansas 9/12 Project, said it had come to the attention of the group that a teacher within Lawrence Public Schools was given a non-renewal because of a difference in political opinion. She asked the board of education to investigate this and possibly reconsider the non-renewal or check into how teachers are released so this is not a pattern in Lawrence. She said different opinions should be tolerated and she believes this is worth exploring.
According to a press release from the Kansas 9.12 Project, school board members admitted to the teachers union that they had not properly followed union rules to dismiss the teacher.
Prior to meeting with Mr. Cunningham, the Kansas 912’ers met with the teacher and then later met with the teacher’s union representative from the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA). The KNEA representative stated the district admitted they violated the current employment contract by failing to do required in-class evaluations in accordance with the teacher-agreement. He also indicated LHS administrators appear to have harassed the teacher over an assignment where students were asked to contrast the pro’s and con’s of each presidential candidate during the fall election and again because his class did not watch the Presidential inauguration live in his classroom. Harassment also included a Vice Principal confronting the teacher about -- who he should vote for -- and by making disparaging remarks like ”how can you support that woman”, in reference to Sarah Palin. In addition, the teacher was also knocked by other staff members who criticized him for displaying a McCain/Palin bumper sticker on his car and one administrator even demanded he remove links from his teacher webpage to government and historical websites including the armed forces and Arlington National Cemetery, suggesting the teacher’s page was “too patriotic."
Another school board meeting will be held on June 22 and Latham's supporters intend to appear then to pursue the matter further.
Kansas media outlets do not seem much interested in this story, though the Kansas Liberty (subscription required) did cover the story at the end of May. Coverage has been extremely scarce locally and no national coverage has been seen in any case.
It is interesting, though, to see how this story is finding a deaf ear among the media. One might think that a teacher claiming to have been fired over his political beliefs and the subsequent First Amendment questions that raises would be a natural flash point that would draw media coverage. But, thus far, it is seems that little attention has been paid this story.
Earl Glynn, of the website Kansas Meadowlark blog has some interesting video of what students had to say about Mr. Latham.