Students go on strike to support educator
AURORA, – At least 150 Overland High School students walked out of class Thursday to protest administrators’ decision to put a teacher on leave while they investigate remarks he made about President Bush during class, including that some people compare Bush to Adolf Hitler.Cherry Creek School District administrators were investigating whether geography teacher Jay Bennish violated a policy requiring balancing viewpoints in the classroom, district spokeswoman Tustin Amole said.Overland Parent Teacher Community Organization presidents Kathy Papadimtropoulos and Holly Sparks said in a statement Thursday that they are confident that school officials will take the investigation seriously. They did not comment further on the matter.Amole said Bennish was placed on administrative leave Wednesday to avoid further disruption at the school in this east Denver suburb.She said the school had heard rumors about the protest, which included some students who objected to Bennish’s comments. Students were told to return to class, but she said no disciplinary action was taken.”It was peaceful. The students yelled, but there was no fighting,” Amole said. “Most of them did return to class.”Sophomore Sean Allen recorded about 20 minutes of Bennish’s class during a Feb. 1 discussion about Bush’s State of the Union speech and gave the recording to his father, who complained to the principal, Amole said.”After listening to the tape, it’s evident the comments in the class were inappropriate. There were not adequate opportunities for opposing points of view,” she said.A telephone number listed for Bennish, who has been teaching social studies and American history at Overland since 2000, had been disconnected.No action has been taken against Bennish, Amole said. She said the investigation should be complete by late next week while officials continue to talk to students, parents and faculty members.Spokeswoman Deborah Fallin of the Colorado Education Association, which represents about 37,000 union teachers, said it will not represent Bennish legally because he is not a member, but said that he has hired an attorney.Amole said Bennish told school officials he had received threats as news of the allegations spread, but she did not speculate on what the threats were and who made them.She said he was the subject of similar complaints a few years ago, but said that case was resolved after Bennish met with a parent and the school principal.Allen stayed home from school Thursday to avoid any backlash, Amole said.
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