A middle school teacher in Virginia forced his students to support President Barack Obama’s re-election by making them conduct opposition research on GOP candidates and then sending their suggestions to the Obama campaign.
The Daily Caller is reporting that in January, 2012, Michael Denman, a teacher at Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County, Virginia, split his eighth grade Civics Honors class into four groups and assigned them each a Republican presidential candidate to research. Two students were to write a paper identifying the weaknesses of the candidate, two were to write an attack strategy, and two others were assigned the task of finding someone within the campaign to whom they could send the information.
“This assignment was just creepy beyond belief — like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” one frustrated father, who asked for his family to remain anonymous, told the Caller.
“I was shocked that a school teacher would so blatantly politicize the curriculum of a middle school classroom. I asked [my child] if a similar assignment had been handed out to examine the background and positions of President Obama to see if the teacher was at least being bipartisan.”
No such assignment had been given, which explains why the school began to receive multiple phone calls from parents who expressed outrage at the political nature of the assignment.
In an e-mail to the Caller, John Torre, a spokesman on behalf of the Fairfax County Public School system, insisted that students were never instructed to actually send their results to the Obama campaign.
“Instead, the teacher simply asked his students to find out the name of the office that would receive such information,” Torre wrote.
He also explained that the principal, Dr. Catherine Cipperly, who refused to comment, discussed the matter with Denman, citing that students should have been given a choice to research candidates from either major party.
“The principal advised the teacher that he should emphasize to his students that this assignment was meant to learn a process and not to endorse a particular candidate,” Torre said. “The teacher agreed with the principal’s direction.”
The Caller learned that a district policy is in place which addresses employee political activities, and states that “employees shall not involve their schools in political campaigns, distribute political literature on school property or attempt to indoctrinate students with their personal political beliefs.”
Torre tried to say that Denman did not violate the policy because his intention was to exercise “a simulation activity with the intent of teaching students about the research process that a campaign committee goes through prior to an election,” he told the Caller.
The father who reported this to the press said he’s hoping to send a message to other public school teachers: “Teachers acting in such manner need to be called out,” he said. “I have no personal animosity toward the teacher in question at all, but let’s be real.”
He added: “Leave politics out of the classroom. Present a balanced viewpoint, teaching children to listen to all sides and think for themselves.”
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