Rowan Co. teacher punished after political argument with students

Rowan Co. teacher punished after political argument with students

Rowan Co. teacher punished after political argument with students

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by CALEB TROOP / WCNC.com

WCNC.com

Posted on June 19, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 19 at 4:44 PM

SPENCER, N.C. – A teacher at a Rowan County school has been suspended 10 days without pay after getting national attention for a YouTube video that surfaced last month showing her yelling at her students, saying it’s wrong to criticize the president.

In the YouTube video, North Rowan High School teacher Tonya Dixon-Neely and her students were debating several political issues, including a discussion about President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

The video, which was uploaded on May 14, has more than 1 million views on YouTube.  Dixon-Neely will complete special growth program before the start of next school year, the Rowan-Salisbury Schools System said.

"Teachers must create a positive instructional environment conducive to learning within the guidelines of our state curriculum," Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said in a statement.  "Ms. Dixon-Neely’s failure to meet these standards during the recorded portion of class is the basis for my disciplinary action against her.  However, school administrators reported that the recording does not reflect Ms. Dixon-Neely’s usual performance as a teacher."

The conversation starts as the class discusses recent accusations that Mitt Romney bullied someone as a teenager in the 1960s.

But the conversation quickly turns into an argument between several students and the teacher, with some students questioning Obama and asking if Obama bullied someone in high school as well.

“That’s disrespect.  This man (Romney) is a presidential candidate.  He’s not the president,” the teacher is heard shouting.  “Let me tell you something.  You will not disrespect the president of the United States in this classroom.”

“I’ll say what I want,” countered one male student.

“Not about him you won’t,” yelled the teacher.

“I’m going to call my dad real quick.  We’ll see,” the student added.  “I didn’t disrespect him, I was just asking a question.  I have different beliefs.”

Later in the video the conversation turns foul-mouthed when the discussion changes to President Bush.

“Do you realize that people were arrested for saying things bad about Bush,” the teacher continued.  “You are not supposed to slander.

“As a social studies teacher I cannot allow you to slander any president in here, past or present.  If that’s the case, somebody could say negative things about the Tea Party.”

The story went nationwide, and conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh spent several minutes discussing the incident on his national radio show on May 21.

"Now, I ask you, is the teacher a liberal?  Is the teacher nonpartisan?  Is the teacher apolitical?  No way," Limbaugh said.  "This teacher is a full-fledged leftist.  There's no question about it.  And sounds very much like a jerk to boot."

"Many staff members of the Rowan-Salisbury Public Schools, including Ms. Dixon-Neely, have
been subjected to criticism from around the country because of the classroom recording," said Dr. Grissom.  "This criticism has included veiled threats. Ms. Dixon-Neely also has received messages that include racist language and sentiments. It is time for us to move beyond this incident so that we and everyone else who cares about our students can return our full attention to student success."

Click below to watch the entire 10-minute video. (Note: the video contains audio not suitable for all ages.  Viewer discretion is advised.)

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