A Pennsylvania history teacher has been suspended without pay after a discussion about standing during the Pledge of Allegiance offended some of her 12- and 13-year-old seventh-grade students.
Every morning before classes start, students are told to “please rise” for the playing of the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, which are broadcast over the loudspeaker at Central Dauphin East Middle School in Harrisburg.
“About two-thirds of the students remain seated,” teacher Sharon Davis, 60, told The Epoch Times.
It has been that way since the start of the school year, she said. It’s their free speech right to do so.
After the pledge, Davis’s homeroom class stays with her for ancient world history. She has been teaching full time at the school for 20 years.
“My question of the course is, how have ancient civilizations impacted modern-day society?” she said.
At about the time Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Davis said she thought it would be beneficial for students to examine their reasoning for not standing during the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, so she talked about it occasionally over the course of several months.
“I’ve always said to the class, ‘I understand if it’s political or religious reasons, why you’re not standing. I get that,’” Davis said.
But if they weren’t standing just out of laziness, that would be difficult to understand. She never forced them to stand, and she was aware that not all students were standing in other classrooms in the school, she said.
At one point, Davis separated some students who had been sitting together and talking during the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. One of the students threw papers at her and grabbed things out of her hands, and another student called her a “Karen.”
The weekend after the students were separated, one student started a TikTok channel called Fire Sharon Davis, using the school’s official logo and the heading, “We are working to fire a teacher at Central Dauphin East Middle School.”
It had several videos using text.
One video’s text reads, “Help us fire a racist and homophobic teacher!”
Another video’s text reads: “Ms. Davis needs to get fired and everyone agrees. You’re lying if you say she doesn’t,” and “Ms. Davis said slurs before.”
Davis was off work the Monday after the TikTok channel was started, the week of April 11. That Tuesday, when she returned to school, numerous students told her they were worried that she had been fired when she didn’t come to school. They shared screenshots from TikTok.
The principal talked to Davis that morning.
“She said, ‘There’s a TikTok on you.’ And she was very vague with me. She said that the administration is taking care of it,” Davis said.
The TikTok channel was soon deleted, but Davis believes there was no investigation.
Davis learned who posted the content and told the principal. That student was interviewed and admitted that she posted the calls to fire Davis. When asked why she did so, the student made accusations that started an investigation and disciplinary action against Davis.
“The student stated that you had been lecturing students who were not standing for the flag and making inappropriate statements to those that did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kathy McCool, the school’s director of human resources, wrote in a June 7 letter to Davis.
McCool said Davis’s actions may be construed as a violation of students’ free speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The letter accused Davis of telling the principal that she wanted the student removed from the National Junior Honor Society because the student wasn’t showing citizenship by declining to stand for the flag.
“I did not single out any one student,” Davis said in a rebuttal letter. “I used the teachable moment as a starting point for class discussion. My objective was to have open discussion about why our schools ask students every morning to please rise for the pledge to the flag. … At no time did I make inappropriate comments to those who did not stand for the flag.”
On June 30 the school sent another letter, placing Davis on unpaid administrative leave starting in August. She was teaching summer school, but had to stop because of the school’s investigation.
“In addition, unless directed to report to the district, you should exclude yourself from the buildings and grounds while this investigation is pending. You should also not initiate any contact with any staff member, students or their parents during the investigation,” the letter from the school reads. “At the conclusion of the investigation, you will be notified by the district of the outcome, at which time the district will advise you of its determination regarding your work status.”
This is an excerpt from The Epoch Times.
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