An assignment handed out by a seventh grade Highlands Junior School teacher has led to state Rep. Briscoe Cain to call for the educator’s resignation.
The passage in question was in an assignment and was one part of 10 passages designed to help students practice inference and points of view, both of which are part of the STAAR test. The passage was an essay taken from Youth Voices, an online educational program, and whose author is identified named Parker Edgington, a student at Judge Memorial Catholic High School.
The title of the essay is “Trump Against American Values,” referring to President Donald Trump. In the essay, Parker writes “from the beginning of his presidency we have seen insensitive remarks toward other racial and culture groups. Someone with that high a platform as the president of America there is a set of standards that should come with that.”
In the assignment, students were asked what a reader could infer from the essay, and were given four options. The options are:
nThe United States will impeach Donald Trump.
n Other Americans are also offended by Donald Trump.
n Mexican Americans are the major group upset with Donald Trump.
n Future generations will have to deal with racism.
Cain issued a press release and called for the teacher, who the district refused to identify, to be fired from her job.
“This individual has violated the sacred trust that every parent has with the State of Texas when they send their child into a public school,” Cain said. “They have lost the privilege of being in a classroom with Texas children, and forfeit the title of teacher. No teacher should attempt to indoctrinate a child to their ideology, no matter who is in the White House.”
Dr. Randal O’Brien, Goose Creek superintendent, addressed the controversy.
“While we respect Representative Cain’s point of view, this matter does not provide evidence of repetitious or intentional harm by a teacher,” O’Brien said. “We work hard to ensure that all our teachers meet the curriculum standards and objectives every single day. We take appropriate measures when we fall short. This matter, like most community concerns, has been handled at the campus level, as is appropriate.”
Cain also posted the assignment on his Facebook page, and many of the comments were heated. Beth Dombrowa, the district’s spokeswoman, said following Cain’s Facebook post, the district received several disturbing phone calls that were threatening in nature, most of which were directed at the teacher.
“I took many of those calls, and they were appalling, to say the least,” Dombrowa said. “Clearly a mistake was made, but not to the level that a staff member’s life should be threatened.”
In wake of the threats, Cain called for calmer discourse in a statement.
“It is important that our civil society maintains a public dialogue about the best educational standards and practices of our education system. That public dialogue must always be civilized and constructive. Our community cares deeply for our children and their future, but threats and intimidation from either side of the political spectrum have no place in our public debate and I do not condone them. Together, we can create high standards for education and public discourse.”
Dombrowa said the teacher’s use of the controversial material was also reviewed.
“The teacher did not use good judgment or did not review the materials that she received from an outside source thoroughly,” Dombrowa said. “The matter was addressed with the teacher and the materials will no longer be used. The matter has been settled at the campus level, as appropriate.”
In the press release from Cain’s office, it mentions a parent, Chris Felder, saying his child was exposed to the “indoctrination exercise.”
“This was an assignment my seventh-grade daughter received that I found to be very out of place, to say the least,” Felder states in Cain’s press release. “It feels as though my expectations of our educators are too high. This type of non factual rhetoric has no place in our schools regardless of who the president is.”
Felder goes on to say his children have experiences with great teachers in the classroom.
“But have also had to put up with those who see their role as indoctrinators, not educators,” Felder said. “As a fellow graduate of Goose Creek CISD, I’m embarrassed that this is what our district tolerates.”
Felder is a Baytown police officer that has some headlines of his own recently. He and his wife are being sued by Jefte Sprecher, who claims Felder attacked him in October when he was parked at abandoned Whataburger with Felder’s 16-year-old daughter.
The case is still pending, and the next court date is April 4.
According to Lt. Steve Dorris, Baytown police spokesman, Felder has been placed on non-enforcement status pending the disposition of the case in the courts.