It’s no secret that the level of civility in this country is at an all-time low. But I didn’t know just how low it had gotten until finding out that a teacher in a Georgia town told her students that their parents aren’t truly Christians if they voted for President Obama–and at least for now, is still in the classroom.
A few weeks ago, Nancy Perry, a teacher at Dublin Middle School in Dublin–about halfway between Savannah and Macon–caused a firestorm when she told several students that Obama wasn’t really a Christian. As if it were possible, it went downhill from there. According to the local paper, The Courier Herald. Perry then declared that if the kids’ parents voted for Obama, they weren’t really Christians either. She then demanded that her students prove they were really Christian.
Apparently Perry must have thought she’d be able to get away with such disgraceful behavior because Laurens County, home to Dublin, is the same shade of red as a Georgia Bulldogs jersey. Since Barry Goldwater carried Georgia in 1964, the last time that a Democrat not named Carter carried the county was in 1992, when Bill Clinton narrowly won it. In the last four elections, Republicans have carried it with 60 percent of the vote or more. In other words–this is an area where, as the saying goes, Democrats get shot. Well, at least one student didn’t take this lying down. He complained to his parents. They demanded a meeting with the teacher.
The meeting took place several days later. As expected, Perry and a school administrator on hand. However, there was an unexpected guest–Perry’s husband, Bill, who is a member of the local school board. Until last fall, Bill Perry hosted a right-wing talk show on local radio. Gee, did it occur to either Nancy or Bill that his presence would at least raise the appearance of impropriety? Apparently not. According to the parents, Nancy Perry not only refused to apologize, but showed images from a Website backing up her views. Needless to say, the parents were not pleased, and complained to the local NAACP chapter. Chapter president Patricia Manson wrote a letter to the editor demanding that both Perrys be held to account.
The parents wrote a letter of their own to Dublin superintendent of schools Chuck Ledbetter, which the boy’s father read at a recent school board meeting. On Thursday night, Ledbetter updated WMGT-TV in Macon about the matter. Teachers, he said, are supposed to “build bridges, not walls.” He also added that having a school board member in a parent-teacher conference was “not a practice we can allow.” He added that school officials have met with Nancy Perry to ensure that “there is an understanding this is not appropriate,” and that talking politics or religion has no place in the classroom. He is also seriously considering more sensitivity and diversity training for teachers in the district.
Ledbetter said that he informed the parents to let him know what actions were taken. We already know that whatever the action was, it was inadequate. Why? As of Friday night, Perry is still listed in the staff directory at Dublin Middle School. Sorry, that doesn’t cut it. If I ever become a father, one of the first things I’d drill into my kids’ heads is respect for those who don’t think like they do. I would expect my kids’ teachers to do the same thing. For that reason, even though I’m as Democratic as they come, I’d consider it grossly inappropriate if a teacher trashed a Republican politician in this way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a strongly Democratic teacher trashing a Republican or a strongly Republican teacher trashing a Democrat. The message sent to our kids is the same–just sitting and talking with those who disagree with you is verboten. And that message has no place in any classroom. Period, full stop.