A substitute teacher who asked his students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance will be the one taking a seat after getting banned from the St. Louis school district where a student accused the longtime teacher of not respecting his feelings and making him a target for not participating in the activity.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jim Furkin, a longtime substitute at Parkway South High School, was banned during a Parkway School Board meeting back in November, just one month after he was asked to not return to the school following the incident.
Furkin went on the record immediately following the October incident, telling the Post-Dispatch that he didn't believe that he did anything wrong when he asked the 24 students in his Freshman English class to stand for the daily reciting of the Pledge.
"So I say, 'All right, let's go,' and we recite the pledge," Furkin told the Post-Dispatch. "There are always two or three who don't stand up because it's not required. So at the end of the Pledge, I said, 'Thanks to all of you that participated in that. I'm sure that all of those families who lost loved ones so that we could enjoy the freedoms we have today would appreciate the effort.'"
Well, it looks like one of the two students who opted to not participate was offended by Furkin's comments and went to the counselor to file a complaint. Later on in the day, Furkin was approached by a school administrator who told him that the student felt "hurt" by the teacher's comments.
"I said, 'Oh, I didn't mean it that way, that wasn't my intent at all,'" Furkin continued. "He said 'We'll get back to you,' and then the next day after that, I'm no longer welcome in the building."
Furkin attempted to argue his case at the November school board meeting, but the district decided to uphold the ban. A statement released by the school district explained the reasoning behind the ban, stating that the decision wasn't solely based on that one incident:
"While we cannot share details of individual personnel matters, we would not recommend that a substitute teacher be restricted from a school simply based on a single isolated incident such as this," the statement read. "Several factors, including prior concerns at other schools, would be taken into consideration before making a recommendation."
Included in these "prior concerns" are incidents where Furkin recording video of students without their consent as well as an incident where the former substitute teacher violated "appropriate teacher-to-student interactions by sharing his personal contact information with students."
The statement goes on to read:
"It is worth noting that during the recent incident regarding the pledge, the substitute's comments caused disruption during class. By praising certain students for standing, the students who made the decision not to stand were humiliated and then teased. The class environment did not cultivate an atmosphere of learning and acceptance of the views and values of others. As you know, our mission and vision are integral parts of teaching and learning in Parkway."
Kelly Educational Staffing, which represents Furkin and other substitute teachers in the St. Louis area, offered to assign him to a different school district following his dismall from Parkway South in October, but Furkin told the agency that he no longer had a desire to teach.
"If I'm being knocked out of the building, I'm just done," he told the Post-Dispatch. "'I don't want to sub anymore, take me off your rolls. I quit. I've had it.'"
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