In 2002 the Leavenworth, Kansas school district -- USD 453 --- tried to fire me as a department head at the Leavenworth High School. My offense -- I asked if my son could wear a t-shirt with a historical scene including small Confederate flags. The principal and two assistants called me in to fire me making a major blunder. John Parker, the current principal and member of the Missouri National Guard, miscalculated my contract dates. They were a year off and they thought that I was untenured. Untenured teachers can be fired in Kansas with no cause. So, because I asked Jim VanMaanen if my son could wear his t-shirt, they tried to fire me. This is in America. It garnered a Federal lawsuit instead. We won. They lost. They caved when they found that we had no racial problems at the school, that one black student had worn Confederate emblems because he knew his friends were "not racist", and because my son had never caused problems. Rutherford Institute generously sponsored our suit and the local USD lawyer who mis-advised the school to pursue the action in court, was trounced by a four-name legal firm. The USD requested a settlement after they hired a four-named firm that advised them to desist quickly or lose even more. They paid, my son wore his shirt, and then the district began their retaliation program against me. I finally left to teach graduate studies at the Army's staff college but I remind the tax-payers in Leavenworth through editorials that the bigotry of the USD cost them a lot of money. They were astounded when the photo of our local black member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans here in Leavenworth was subsequently put on the cover the newspaper --- in front of a Confederate marker for his ancestor in Arkansas. Yep, Mr. Williams, who is retired from law enforcement is very proud of his ancestor and has marched in the Leavenworth Veterans Day parade in a Confederate uniform. It drives the anti-Southern bigots crazy because it doesn't fit their stereotypes. Having taught history at the secondary, undergraduate, and graduate levels, I know why this happens. Like the USD, they just don't know. Unfortunately, lack of history knowledge is endemic in our country as shown by numerous studies over the past few years. I frequently point-out that hate, stereotyping, and bigotry are common by-products of this ignorance. Unfortunately, I do not see this getting better because making arguments based on emotional stereotypes is so much easier than obtaining an education. As Leavenworth found out, the price of bad education is expensive in the long run.
Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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