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Superintendent to angry parents: Take it up with anti-Trump teacher

By   /   January 19, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

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ANTI-TRUMP TEACHER: Brett Meteyer, a fourth-grade teacher at Explorer Elementary School in Williamston, Mich., has refused to talk to Watchdog after a firestorm erupted over his decision to bar students from watching President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural speech.

A Michigan school administrator has a message for parents angered by a teacher’s refusal to show President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural address in class: Take it up with the teacher.

That was the gist of a brief letter posted by Williamston Community Schools Superintendent Narda Murphy on the district website, a day after Explorer Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Brett Meteyer informed parents he would let students watch the ceremony but not Trump’s speech.

As first reported by Watchdog.org, the backlash started Tuesday when a parent shared the teacher’s email with Michigan radio talk show host Steve Gruber, who happens to have kids in the same school district. The email, subsequently posted to Gruber’s Facebook account, stated that since the Trump team had not provided Meteyer with a preview of the speech, he worried about what Trump might say:

“I am anxious about showing Mr. Trump’s inaugural address, given his past inflammatory and degrading comments about minorities, women, and the disabled. I am also uneasy about Mr. Trump’s casual use of profanity, so I sought an assurance that as their teacher, I would not be exposing children to language that would not appear in G- or PG-rated movies.”

The parent, who spoke to Watchdog on condition of anonymity Wednesday, said he turned to Gruber rather than the teacher out of fear of retaliation against his kids.

“My son is in this class and it has been infuriating getting these emails,” the parent said. “It’s hard as a parent to take action without our children suffering repercussions.”

DEAL WITH IT: Superintendent letter tells parents to talk directly to teachers.

Once Meteyer’s email went viral on the airwaves and in social media, news about the teacher’s actions spread quickly throughout Michigan and the nation.

Meteyer has not responded to Watchdog’s requests for comment.

The superintendent, in her Jan. 18 response letter, urged parents to confront the teacher personally since district policy directs administrators “not to comment on specific employee/employer issues”:

Dear Williamston Families,

I am aware of discourse within the community regarding a teacher parent communication surrounding the Presidential inauguration.  The district administration expects teachers to present a balanced perspective consistent with the curriculum and demonstrate good judgement in their communications with families. Administrators do not preview nor censor communications sent by teachers.  We do, however, encourage parents to dialogue directly with their child’s teacher when they have questions regarding communication or instructional practice.

Please note that due to district policy and long standing practice, district administrators will not comment on specific employee/employer issues.  As always, your support of our teachers and students is greatly appreciated.

Respectfully,

Narda Murphy
Superintendent

Photo courtesy of Williamston Community Schools

STAYING OUT: Superintendent Narda Murphy won’t stop a teacher’s decision to bar students from watching the presidential inaugural address.

The district policy of staying neutral in teacher-parent situations leaves parents to duke it out with Meteyer. Gruber has noted that making parents take action is what led to the public relations disaster for the district.

Another parent who spoke anonymously to Watchdog out of fear of reprisals said the superintendent’s letter doesn’t help the situation.

“That’s the whole problem. If we go to the teacher, it just gets swept under the rug and the B.S. continues,” the parent said.

“It’s disappointing that a parent, afraid of getting his kid in trouble, has to send an anonymous email to put a spotlight on bad behavior by a teacher,” Gruber told Watchdog.org.

“But even worse the district issues a statement that washes its hands and says you guys fight it out,” he added. “It is the epitome of cowardice to avoid straight answers which America needs now more than ever.”

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Kathy Hoekstra is the regulatory policy reporter for Watchdog.org. Before joining Watchdog, she was a senior communications manager and Michigan state director for Job Creators Network, an advocacy organization that focuses on employee education. She has also been a TV news reporter and anchor, a contributor to the Detroit News and occasional guest-host for Frank Beckmann on WJR Radio in Detroit, and was an investigative reporter for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. She lives in Michigan and is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.