A Wisconsin school district has launched an investigation into accusations that teachers have bullied and harassed a politically active student.
Benji Backer, a 15-year-old student at Appleton North High School in Appleton, told me that he’s been subjected to name-calling, foul-language and classroom lectures that bashed Gov. Scott Walker and labeled Republicans as racist:
“They are harassing and bullying me as well as indoctrinating other students,” Backer said. The 15-year-old wrote about his allegations in great detail in an essay first published by FreedomWorks.
“My teachers have always talked about bullying, including bullying homosexuals and how wrong it is,” Backer wrote. “I agree 100 percent. They shouldn’t be bullied, nor should anyone else.”
Backer wrote that if homosexuals can get equal treatment, why can’t conservative students?
“If teachers expect bullying to end with homosexuals, they should want it to end with every type of bullying possible, including political views,” he wrote.
Ben Vogel, an assistant superintendent for the Appleton school district, tells me they have launched an investigation into Backer’s allegations and they are taking it seriously.
“I’m always going to be concerned when a student comes and shares that they feel they are being treated unfairly in a classroom,” Vogel said. “We want all students to feel like they are safe at their school and in the individual classes.”
Backer’s allegations came during a period of time of great political unrest in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker was battling the teachers union and afterwards an unsuccessful recall petition.
Nevertheless, Vogel said that’s no excuse for teachers trying to indoctrinate students.
“We have school board policy regarding political activity in the classroom – when it’s appropriate and when it’s not appropriate,” he said. “We will follow up and make sure our teachers are doing what they need to be doing and if they’re not – then we will follow up accordingly.”
One of the more egregious episodes allegedly occurred in Backer’s English class. He said his teacher would use classroom lectures to rail against Walker – and soon – the teacher turned on the 15-year-old.
“He was swearing and saying how wrong it was for anyone to support Scott Walker,” Backer wrote. “Students were telling him to stop, and he wouldn’t.”
Backer was the Wisconsin co-chair for Young Americans for Mitt Romney. He was also featured in a USA Today story about the November election.
The same English teacher saw the article and video and pulled him aside. Backer said the teacher began criticizing not only Republicans – but also Backer’s dad – the owner of a small business.
“He started to talk to me about how much harder he worked compared to my dad, a small business owner,” Backer said. “He went on to ask how much my parents made because he wanted to compare it to his salary.”
That incident prompted Backer and his parents to meet with the high school’s principal. The teacher later apologized – but then began cursing at the youngster.
“My teacher asked, ‘You know how you went down to the principal’s office?’” Backer recalled. “I said, yes, and he said, ‘I don’t give a s**t.’”
Bruce Backer, Benji’s dad, told Fox News they were shocked by the altercation.
“We were surprised that politics was being brought into the school during classes that had nothing to do with politics,” Backer said. “We didn’t understand why there was a need to focus on Benjamin’s beliefs.”
Vogel said they were aware of the incident with the English teacher and “are very specifically following up on all the accusations and concerns.”
According to Backer, the bullying didn’t stop in English class.
A substitute teacher in his government class told the students that all Republicans are racist.
“According to her, President Obama has been the most ill-treated president in the history of the United States, all because of the Republicans being racist,” Backer wrote.
A Health teacher hauled Backer before the entire class and was grilled about his support of the Tea Party. The teacher then told him he was “weird” for supporting the group.
“If a teacher would ask why someone was homosexual, Atheist or Muslim and called what they believed ‘weird,’ there would be serious consequences,” Backer wrote.
In some ways, the indoctrination has been subtle. Students in civics class are required to watch CNN Student News every day, for example.
In 2010 Backer’s political efforts were featured on the front page of the local newspaper. He said his geography teacher “would take me after school for a few minutes and tell me how stupid, wrong and misguided I was for being a Republican.”
Backer, who was then 12-years-old, said the harassment was so bad he had to switch schools.
At his new school a substitute teacher in a music class showed the students a five-minute video about how great unions are and how bad Gov. Walker is.
Backer said it’s time for parents and school officials to get involved and stop teachers from turning their classrooms into indoctrination centers.
“A school should be a place students can comfortably and safely express their opinions,” Backer wrote. “If we want an educated Republic, we need to educate students in a fair and balanced way.”
Vogel agrees with that idea.
“Obviously we want students to be thinking and talking about current events,” he said. “But that needs to be done in a fair and balanced way. That’s not a means for a teacher to share specifically what their views are and try to indoctrinate students in a certain way.”
Backer’s father worries about other students who may feel intimidated by their teachers.
“Most students want to be liked by the teachers,” he said. “Many of them have relationships with the teachers and they don’t want to damage that.”
The 15-year-old said he’s not worried about repercussions for speaking out.
“I took a stand because it’s not about me,” he said.