By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
SPENCER, N.C.— A full week after the release of a 10-minute YouTube video featuring social studies teacher Tanya Dixon-Neely berating North Rowan High student Hunter Rogers and telling him he could be arrested for criticizing President Obama, the educator has been suspended with pay by The Rowan-Salisbury School System.
While free discussion was obviously not allowed in her classroom, the incident has sparked more than a bit of discourse online as thousands lament the lack of civility in the classroom and the teacher’s obvious intent to force her opinion on students.
“I don’t hear the teacher in this case demonstrating what it means to have a civil discussion,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, who was asked to comment on the incident this past week by American Family News Network. “Instead, as irony would have it, even though the subject is presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s bullying of a kid five decades ago, the teacher is bullying the student into silence about President Obama. Worse still, she seeks to intimidate him into silence by erroneously telling him he could be arrested for being critical of the president.”
The incident, apparently recorded via a friend’s cell phone with its camera focused only on the classroom ceiling, began when Rogers asked a question about the teacher’s “fact of the day” that said Romney had bullied someone in high school.
“Didn’t Obama bully somebody, though?” students asked, to which the teacher replied “Not to my knowledge.” When a couple of students began to relate information about media reports of Obama admitting to shoving a little girl in grade school, the dialogue escalated.
“Stop! Stop! Because there’s no comparison. He’s running for president. Obama is the president,” Dixon-McNeely insists in the audio, continuing to demand, “You will not disrespect the president of the United States in this classroom.”
Dr. Creech said the teacher was on target when she called students to respect the office of the presidency.
“But as important as it is to teach respect for the office of those who lead our country, it is equally important to teach students respect for a civil political discourse,” he said. “Certainly, this social studies teacher knows that respect for the office of any public servant doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to criticize. If respect were defined in that fashion, political discourse would always be one-sided.”
The students pointed out as much in the social studies class, pressing for equal treatment of Obama and Romney, with someone commenting, “If you’re gonna talk trash about one side, you gotta talk trash about the other.”
But the teacher can be heard repeatedly demanding that President Obama not be criticized and telling her students that people were arrested for saying derogatory things about President Bush.
Even when Rogers correctly points out that opinions are protected by our First Amendment Freedom of Speech and that only if a person makes a threat against the president can he be arrested, the teacher continues her rant.
Rogers told Fox News that this was not the first time such an incident had occurred in the social studies class. He said the teacher “always has open discussions about the president and candidates, and she doesn’t want to hear anything but what she believes.”
“If you disagree you get berated and put down, and I just decided to finally get some proof of it,” he said in an interview that also featured his mother, Gina Rogers.
She said although her son had told her about the teacher’s behavior, she did not realize that it was so extreme until she heard the audio.
“First of all, I don’t feel the teacher should have started a political discussion if she wasn’t willing to hear both sides,” Gina Rogers said in the interview for Fox & Friends. “My biggest concern is that this teacher is responsible for teaching my child and hundreds of others, and she is not teaching them factual information.”
Many of the responses to Web sites featuring the YouTube video and related articles show that the public is outraged by the teacher’s behavior and the fact that school system is still paying her while she’s suspended.
The Salisbury Post, which first reported the incident on May 19 published an editorial Tuesday saying the incident will test the Rowan-Salisbury schools’ standards.
“We don’t know enough about this teacher to determine whether this incident is a momentary lapse or a part of a pattern. But what we do know — what we have heard — is inexcusable,” the editorial asserts.
Dr. Creech said teachers must take the utmost care as they interact with those who are students today, but our nation’s leaders tomorrow.
“Consistency, constancy, and undeviating diligence in maintaining these virtues are the higher calling of teachers to pass down to the next generation,” said Dr. Creech. “If the present generation is to command respect, or even a hearing from the young, it can’t stifle discourse, but it must encourage that it be done with humility and honor toward all.”
To listen to the audio of the exchange between the student and his teacher, click here
To read and hear the audio of the American Family News Network story featuring Dr. Creech, click here
(Audio found in upper right corner of the story)