A longtime substitute teacher at a suburban St. Louis high school said school administrators banned him after he thanked students for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Jim Furkin, who taught for 10 years as a Parkway South High School substitute in Manchester, Missouri, said the ban was mandated after a student complained, the newspaper reported. At a meeting of the Parkway School Board on Wednesday. Furkin asked school administrators to look into the situation.
“I’d like to know what happened,” Furkin said.
In late October, Furkin said he was substituting for a freshman English class when the school made its morning announcements over the public address system, the Post-Dispatch reported. After announcements, students are asked to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
“So I say, ‘All right, let’s go,’ and we recite the pledge,” Furkin told the newspaper. “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.’”
When a student asked Furkin if he could go to the school guidance counselor’s office, he wrote the child a pass, the Post-Dispatch reported. Questioned later in the day about the pledge, Furkin recounted his story, the newspaper reported. The administrator told him the student was “hurt” by his comments, Furkin said.
“I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, that wasn’t my intent at all,’” Furkin told the Post-Dispatch. “He said ‘We’ll get back to you,’ and then the next day after that, I’m no longer welcome in the building.”
Furkin said he was told by Kelly Educational Staffing, the agency the school district uses to hire substitute teachers, that he would no longer be allowed to teach at the school because he “bullied” a student, the newspaper reported.
“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. But like I said at the (school board) meeting, when you say something, you don’t know how someone else is going to perceive it.”
A Parkway spokeswoman told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday that the district would make a statement after officials had gathered more information about the incident. Kelly Educational Staffing did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the newspaper reported.
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