California Educator

January / February 2017

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The associate superintendent read an email from a parent whose child reported that I had said Donald Trump is Hitler and hates Muslims, Jews and African Ameri- cans. I was not allowed to read the email so I could understand what I was being accused of. During this brief meeting the principal said, " You were directed not to talk about the election," which was untrue. I told him nobody had ever said that to me, and if he did say that I would have taken it up with him immediately. When both administrators implied that something inappropriate had been said by me or had gone on in class, I suggested they get the police involved. ey said, "No, it doesn't rise to that level." At the end of the meeting I told them they were squashing academic freedom a n d a p p r o p r i a t e f re e d o m o f s p e e c h i n t h e c l a s s r o o m , w h i c h i s i r o n i c a l ly w hat I t each ab out w h e n i t c o m e s t o constitutional rights in this country. I w a s r e m o v e d from cl a ss an d put o n a d m i n i s t r a t i v e leave. I was to leave t h e c a m p u s r i g h t away. I left on urs- day, Nov. 10, during f ifth p eriod . Friday w a s Ve t e r a n s D a y, a holiday, and I would not be back until the following Wednesday. An investiga- tion and interviews would take place with my students on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I would be told of disciplinary measures that would be taken against me. It was traumatic. The student newspaper called me up that evening and ran a story in the online edition, which came out the same night I was placed on leave. At about 10 that night, parents began emailing the school to support me. e next morning Facebook lit up in support. Somebody put together a petition, and from what I've heard, more than 40,000 people signed it. e San Jose Mercury News ran a story, and then reporters from everywhere began calling. I have given interviews to media in Los Angeles and New York, and to the BBC. I received a phone call from the super- intendent on Saturday. He asked me to return on Monday morning. anks to the public pressure — and my union, the Mountain View-Los Altos Dis- trict Teachers Association — I returned to class having only missed an hour of class time. e superintendent apologized pri- vately on behalf of the district. I have still not seen the email, even though I have asked repeatedly to see it and suggested that the name of the student and his par- ents could be blocked out. What can be learned from this? I believe that what happened shows the need for us to com- municate more with each other, not less. If I had been allowed to sit down with the p a re n t a n d p r i n c i - pal, we could, at the very least, have come aw ay w ith a b e tt e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f each other. It would have been a start of an important conver- sation. Instead, there was no beginning of communication and no exchange of ideas at all. An opportunity was missed. As an educator, I find that objectionable. I believe this incident illustrates the n e e d f o r u s t o b e v i g i l a n t a n d st a n d togeth er and safeguard our c on stitu - t i o n a l r i g h t s , e s p e c i a l ly t h e r i g h t t o communicate with each other freely. If you take rights away from one person, you are, in a very real sense, taking rights aw ay f r o m a l l of u s a s a p e o p l e . An d Americans deserve better than that. Frank Navarro teaches histor y and spe- cial education in Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District. He is planning to retire at the end of this school year. "My goal is not to persuade students to feel or think a certain way. My goal is to present accurate facts, engage students in issues of the day, and help them understand how these critical issues affect their lives."

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