School officials have accused a substitute teacher of “bullying” after he thanked students for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jim Furkin, who taught for 10 years at Parkway South High School in St. Louis, MO, said he was banned after a student complained.
The incident happened in late October while he was substituting for a freshman English class.
Each morning the Pledge of Allegiance is recited over the public address system, where students are also asked to stand while making the Pledge.
“There are always two or three who don’t stand up because it’s not required,” Furkin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “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.’”
But one student, who felt humiliated and teased by the comment, asked Furkin for a pass to go to the school guidance counselor’s office to complain.
“Firing someone for saying ‘Thank you’ is the exact definition of bullying,” Mawyer said.
“I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, that wasn’t my intent at all,’” Furkin told the Post-Dispatch. “Then the next day after that, I’m no longer welcome in the building.”
Furkin said that Kelly Educational Staffing, which the school district uses to hire substitute teachers, told him he would no longer be able to teach at the school because he “bullied” a student.
“To me personally, the flag represents freedom, and there’s a lot of price that’s been paid for the freedom we have today,” Furkin said. “That’s all I’m saying to the kids. … Could somebody feel offended by that? I would hope not.”
Martin Mawyer, president of Christian Action Network, said, “It’s completely insincere to claim that saying ‘thank you’ is somehow an act of ‘bullying.’ The phrase is the complete opposite of bullying. It’s a display of sincere appreciation.
“On the other hand, firing someone for saying ‘thank you’ is the exact definition of ‘bullying.’ As educators, these school officials should be deeply ashamed and embarrassed,” Mawyer added.