Although the Supreme Court has came out on several rulings declaring that the protection of free speech found in the First Amendment is not absolute, they never said anything about taking away a student’s rights to free speech in the classroom, nor a teacher’s right to redefine the law as they please. As Sarah Campbell of the Salisbury Post reported Saturday, Mrs. Tanya Dixon-Neely, a teacher at North Rowan High School, has seemed to miss the memo. She also missed the idea of a proper education as well.
During an unruly classroom discussion this past week, Mrs. Neely shouted at a student in the classroom posing a question-although somewhat disrespectfully – regarding President Obama. The fact of the day, which sparked the question, happened to be that Mitt Romney was a bully in high school. I think we all know where this is going.
Mrs. Neely continues on her advocacy rant defending President Obama, claiming that, “They (Romney and Obama) are not equal”, because Romney is just running for office, and Obama holds the Presidency. She also goes on to accuse the student of slander, “As a social studies teacher, I cannot allow you to slander any President in here, past or present”. Unless the definition of slander has been changed from telling a damaging untruth about someone to asking a question with a truthful answer, or the past president is a Republican, Mrs. Neely is out of her realm.
However, most striking and worrisome is Mrs. Neely’s blatant disregard for the students’ First Amendment right to free speech. The student remarked that he would “say what I want” in regards to the debate; Mrs. Neely’s response was, “Not about him you won’t”. Such remarks have no place in our public schools. Rowan-Salisbury Schools made the correct decision in suspending Mrs. Neely. If our children cannot peacefully ask questions of incumbent office holders in our schools, the link between a free society and free speech will be severely damaged.
Instead of blindly supporting a President, and referring to others as “shi**y”, Mrs. Neely and other teachers should aim to have objective, mature, and constructive conversations on the current political environment that allows criticism of both sides. Teachers hold a powerful and important role in students’ lives. Teachers who prohibit students from discussing both sides of a policy impoverish our students and our discourse. Schools are for education, not indoctrination.
Parents, school administrators, and teachers across our state should be reminded of the importance of free-speech in the classroom, and the importance it holds to individual freedom in our country.
Mrs. Neely violated her duties as a teacher. Both students and teachers deserve a better learning environment. The video highlighted below shows students had meaningful questions but did not meet the level of respect that teachers deserve in the classroom. The video also shows Mrs. Neely’s classroom lacks discipline, proper instructional methods and respect. If the problems discussed here are to be resolved, all these issues should be addressed.
After contacting Rowan-Salisbury Public Schools for a public statement, they directed the author to this statement found in the Salisbury Post:
“The Rowan-Salisbury School System expects all students and employees to be respectful in the school environment and for all teachers to maintain their professionalism in the classroom. This incident should serve as an education for all teachers to stop and reflect on their interaction with students.”
Embedded below is the link to the video captured by a student in the classroom. It should be noted that the video contains some foul language.