A science teacher in Ohio was suspended without pay in late December for allegedly telling an ambitious young African-American student that the country does “not need another black president.”
According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Fairfield City School District’s Board of Education suspended Gil Voigt from Fairfield Freshman School on Monday, December 23. This is the first step necessary for termination.
Voigt, who is white, is accused of making this remark after the student said he would like to become president. The incident occurred on December 3, with several other students present, according to a report from Assistant Superintendent Roger Martin, who conducted a disciplinary hearing on the matter.
The hearing happened because the student’s parents lodged a complaint against Voigt and got their son removed from his class. Four students who were interviewed corroborated the student Voigt was speaking to.
While most educators are concerned about the continuing achievement gap in K-12 public schools in the U.S., and numerous programs have been implemented to provide true equality and the best possible education for all students, apparently Mr. Voigt would prefer it if that achievement gap grew even wider.
Scarily, Voigt has been teaching in Fairfield for over 13 years, and another 15 years at other locations, so he has had plenty of opportunities to make such remarks before.
In fact, we know that the science teacher had been reprimanded for similar remarks in the past. A report prepared by Assistant Superintendent Roger Martin lists four instances of discipline: a verbal warning in April 2008 for an “inappropriate racial comment,” another in November 2008 for “improper use of school technology” and a third in December 2013 for “inappropriate comments to students.” He also received a written warning last month for “failure to use adopted curriculum.”
But at least this time the Fairfield Board of Education is paying attention.
“He was talking to some students and said some things that were racially insensitive,” Fairfield City Schools Board President Dan Murray explained. “We take diversity in our school district very seriously with tolerance of people who are different. We just felt this teacher had crossed the line.”
“Obviously we’re very disheartened to have this situation with any of our staff members,” Superintendent Paul Otten admitted. ”It’s not something we’re proud of, and it’s something we must not tolerate.”
A big shout-out to this student’s parents for complaining, to his fellow students for supporting him, and to the School Board for following through and pursuing the right course of action.
It is notoriously difficult to terminate a public school teacher once that teacher has gained tenure, even when there are clearly grounds for a termination; at one high school where I taught, a teacher had racked up a series of offenses from almost running a student over to throwing chairs across the room and helping her students cheat on a test.
Those actions weren’t enough to terminate her, however, since she had tenure. She finally quit only after being offered a new position that the administration was sure she wouldn’t accept.
So I applaud the Fairfield School Board for their quick actions in moving to terminate Voigt.
It is unconscionable for a teacher to make a comment like this to a student. We don’t need any Gil Voigts in our nation’s schools.
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