Teacher fired for student's anti-Bush poetry

  1. http://www.news-journalonline.com/Ne...PN62051504.htm


    Hard lessons from poetry class: Speech is free unless it's critical


    By BILL HILL

    Last update: 15 May 2004


    Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

    The "Slam Team" was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

    In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

    A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy.

    The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

    Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

    After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

    Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces." What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.

    But more was to come. Posters done by art students were ordered torn down, even though none was termed obscene. Some were satirical, implicating a national policy that had led us into war. Art teachers who refused to rip down the posters on display in their classrooms were not given contracts to return to the school in this current school year.

    The message is plain. Critical thinking, questioning of public policies and freedom of speech are not to be allowed to anyone who does not share the thinking of the school principal.

    The teachers union has been joined in a legal action against the school by the National Writers Union, headquartered in New York City. NWU's at-large representative Samantha Clark lives and works in Albuquerque.








    The American Civil Liberties Union has become the legal arm of the lawsuit pending in federal court.

    Meanwhile, Nevins applied for a teaching post in another school and was offered the job but he can't go to work until Rio Rancho's principal sends the new school Nevins' credentials. The principal has refused to do so, and that adds yet another issue to the lawsuit, which is awaiting a trial date.

    While students are denied poetry readings, poetry clubs and classes in poetry, Nevins works elsewhere and writes his own poetry.

    Writers and editors who have spent years translating essays, films, poems, scientific articles and books by Iranian, North Korean and Sudanese authors have been warned not to do so by the U.S. Treasury Department under penalty of fine and imprisonment. Publishers and film producers are not allowed to edit works authored by writers in those nations. The Bush administration contends doing so has the effect of trading with the enemy, despite a 1988 law that exempts published materials from sanction under trade rules.

    Robert Bovenschulte, president of the American Chemical Society, is challenging the rule interpretation by violating it to edit into English several scientific papers from Iran.

    Are book burnings next?

    Hill is a retired News-Journal reporter.






    No matter what your political beliefs, this is wrong.
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  2. 53 Comments

  3. by   gwenith
    No matter what country you live in this is wrong - I hope that headmaster gets sacked!!!
  4. by   Energizer Bunny
    WHAT THE H*LL?????????????????

    And this is a free country, huh?
  5. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    These people are behaving just like our "enemies" in the middle east, or the Chinese gov't.

    This part really gets me:
    "A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being "un-American" because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its "No child left behind" education policy."

    The people accusing this poor girl of being un-American are infringing on one of our most basic rights as Americans- the right to freedom of speach!
  6. by   elkpark
    The American Civil Liberties Union has become the legal arm of the lawsuit pending in federal court.
    You hear people gripe and b**** so much about the ACLU, but they're just looking out for all of us and this is the kind of situation where they really shine. As their motto says, "Because freedom can't defend itself ..."
  7. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    God bless the ACLU!
  8. by   fergus51
    What a freak. As much as conservatives don't want to be censored, this just shows it isn't about liberal/conservative. It's about stupid people and any principal who would act that way is just plain stupid.
  9. by   eltrip
    Sadly, idiocy & small-mindedness aren't confined to one segment of our population.

    The principal's behavior is plain wrong.
  10. by   GracefulRN
    I don't have all of the facts yet, but if what I have found out so far is correct, what the school priniciple did in this case was wrong, but before I sign off on this I want to get up on my soapbox for awhile (if you don't mind)

    The students in our public school system are being deluged with the political views of their teachers and school administrators (who, for the most part, don't like the current administration). I am not denying the validity of their gripes, I am just saying that there is a general dislike of Bushes policies no matter what they are. The parent of the child who wrote the poetry was a Teacher. Political indoctrination, be it liberal/conservative should not go on Period. How are our children supposed to make up their own minds when the view of those that teach them are sooo slanted. This time the censorship was pro-Bush, and that is why it is getting so much media attention, but what about the classes that were show the horrific images of Nick Berg and then told "See, this is what happens when we fight an unjust war". WTH is going on, lets not bring this potitical battle to the playground. It is just WRONG.

    Finally, for you ACLU lovers. Do you think that the ACLU would be funding this girls legal battle if she had writtn a poem about how much she loves Jesus?.......Real freedom fighters you got there. They have their own political agenda and this case is a weapon that they want to use.
  11. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    I support Kerry, and I loved Bill Clinton. HOWEVER, I Would be on the girls side, no matter what she was writing. If she read a poem saying Bill Clinton is the anti-christ and Kerry is the devil, I would defend her right to read that poem because I love our constitution more than anything.

    The point was not that the girls' poem was anti-Bush. The point was what the principal did was illegal and violated the student's civil rights, and he illegally fired a teacher. Who the poem was for or against is incidental.

    Maybe this famous quote will better illustrate the point:

    "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
  12. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    Bye the way, when I was in the public school system, I had a teacher who pressured us to pray with her, aloud, every day. Her name was Mrs. Swan, and she taught 5th grade.
    Teachers and others forcing their views on kids goes both ways, and is not the point of the story. Civil rights are the point of the story.
    Last edit by Hellllllo Nurse on May 21, '04
  13. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    Quote from GracefulRN
    Finally, for you ACLU lovers. Do you think that the ACLU would be funding this girls legal battle if she had writtn a poem about how much she loves Jesus?.......Real freedom fighters you got there. They have their own political agenda and this case is a weapon that they want to use.
    Yes, GracefulRN, they would. Here's an example for you-




    http://archive.aclu.org/news/2002/n071102b.html

    ACLU Supports Right of Iowa Students to Distribute Christian Literature at School

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Thursday, July 11, 2002
    DES MOINES--The Iowa Civil Liberties Union today announced that it is publicly supporting the Christian students who recently filed a lawsuit against the Davenport Schools asserting the right to distribute religious literature during non-instructional time.

    "The school's policy against the distribution of religious literature outside of class is clearly wrong," said Ben Stone, Executive Director of the ICLU. "Not only does the policy violate the students' right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, but it also infringes on their free speech rights," he said.

    The case, brought by Davenport students Sasha and Jaron Dean and Becky Swope, was filed in federal court on May 31, 2002. The ICLU said it plans to file a "friend-of the-court" brief in support of the Christian students.

    According to the ICLU, the literature ban could be an example of poorly informed school officials acting out of ignorance. "Once in a while, we hear of schools taking away a kid's Bible at school or not letting students say grace before lunch," Stone said. "Such restrictions are dead wrong, and are usually stopped rather quickly once the school receives some instruction on constitutional law. Let's hope the Davenport schools change their policy without further litigation," said Stone.

    Stone noted that ICLU's position in this case is perfectly consistent with its recent litigation to prevent another local school from having students sing "The Lord's Prayer" during graduation.

    "The First Amendment says the government can't restrict the right of people to practice their personal religious beliefs, while at the same time it forbids the government from endorsing religious beliefs, especially in a school setting," said Stone.




    Copyright 2002, The American Civil Liberties Union
  14. by   GracefulRN
    Hellllllo Nurse.
    Teachers and others forcing their views on kids goes both ways, and is not the point of the story. Civil rights are the point of the story
    Hey isn't that what I said? You mean we agree??????? I hope this isn't the start of a trend :wink2:

    I also applaud the efforts of the ACLU on the case that you cited, unfortuntely, the ax USUALLY swings the other way.

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