As the debate over the teaching of critical race theory in the classroom intensifies across the country, the firing of a Tennessee teacher last month emerged as a flashpoint in the discussion over the weekend.
Matthew Hawn, who had been a tenured teacher at the Sullivan County School District since 2008 and baseball coach at Central High School, was dismissed by the local board of education on June 8 in a 6-1 vote for two separate incidents where he taught about race, reported WJHL.com, a news outlet based in Johnson City,Tenn.
At issue was Hawn assigning the essay “The First White President” by Ta-Nehisi Coates to students in his Contemporary Issues class in February, and later in March, playing a video of “White Privilege,” a spoken word poem by Kyla Jenée Lacey to the same students.
“[Donald Trump’s] political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that Black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built,” Coates writes of the former president. “It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true — his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.”
News of Hawn’s dismissal resurfaced over the weekend, entering the national stage, with professors, politicians, and members of the media weighing in. Several pointed out that the case was reminiscent of the Scopes trial, which neared its 100-year anniversary on Saturday. Also known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, science teacher John Scopes was prosecuted in 1925 for teaching evolution at a public school in Tennessee.
Hawn was informed in May by David A. Cox, the director of schools, that the board would be moving forward with the charges of dismissal against him during the public meeting in June, and until then, he would remain on suspension without pay, according to the documents.
Cox wrote in a document outlining the charges of dismissal that Hawn should be let go as a tenured teacher with the district “based upon his insubordination and his repeated unprofessional conduct.”
He alleged that Hawn exhibited unprofessional conduct by demonstrating “questionable judgment” in assigning Coates’ essay “containing inappropriate terms” and for “unreasonably denying” students in his class “access to varying points of view in violation of the Teacher Code of Ethics.”
Sullivan County, Tennessee went for Trump by a 75-23 margin. Teaching anyone who might oppose the greatest Christian warrior in human history is definitely insubordination and a fireable offense there…