Via the Washington Free Beacon, this is the sort of story that -- at least on its surface -- appears to provide at least one fairly clear path to remedying "cancel culture" excesses. At issue is a tweet published by a man named Justin Kucera, a social studies teacher and varsity baseball coach in a Michigan school district. Earlier this month, Kucera wrote this on his personal feed:
I’m done being silent. @realDonaldTrump is our president ???— Coach Kucera (@CoachKWLW) July 7, 2020
Don’t @ me
"Donald Trump is our president," he said, a factual statement that benignly indicates support. The tweet touched off a ridiculous and stupid inquisition, capped by Kucera's firing:
School district officials hauled him into a closed-door meeting after he indicated his support for President Trump's speech to reopen schools. He told the Washington Free Beacon the Walled Lake Western principal and district superintendent gave him an ultimatum: be fired or resign. "I was required to meet with [human resources], the superintendent, and my principal [on July 10]. They initially took my statement on why I tweeted those tweets and they told me they would have a decision about my future employment in the upcoming days. When they completed the meeting, I was told I had the option to either be fired or resign." Kucera said. Neither the school district nor the principal responded to requests for comment. Kucera was a popular figure at the high school before the episode, according to parents and former teachers.
Even his detractors lauded him on social media as they condemned the tweet. Multiple sources said that the teacher never brought politics into the classroom. Bryant Hixson, a recent Walled Lake Western graduate, said his political views have no impact on how he views his coach and teacher. "Prior to Mr. Kucera's tweet, I cannot recall an instance where he shared his political affiliations while teaching or coaching," Hixson said. "My political views have no impact on how I feel towards Mr. Kucera. Mr. Kucera has always been supportive of me as my AP World History and student leadership teacher and as my baseball and basketball coach." A parent of two Walled Lake Western boys told the Free Beacon—on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution—that Kucera was an apolitical figure who coached his son in baseball and basketball and taught his sons AP History and student leadership.
I have questions: Was an immature, later-deleted "liberals suck" tweet part of the issue? Are there other factors at play? It seems as though he was well-liked and well-regarded, and did not let politics color his instruction (note how some supporters are scared to praise him on the record, given the current climate). One could make an argument that government-employed teachers should not publicly air their political views, even in their spare time, but that ship has sailed. The notion that educators must not betray their politics is laughable to virtually any right-of-center student who's ever attended a public school. Those who've demanded this man's scalp over his mild tweet would likely hate the precedent they're reflexively endorsing. According to Kucera, he was presented with a choice: Resign on his own accord or be fired. He said he apologized for causing an unwanted controversy but did not apologize for what he wrote. He was terminated by the district. Which brings us to the key paragraph in the WFB write-up:
Other Walled Lake teachers have expressed their political views without any repercussions. Paulette Loe, a now-retired Walled Lake Western teacher, encouraged students to read an article from the Atlantic about "how to beat Trump" while still employed. Nicole Estes, a kindergarten teacher in the district, called Trump a "sociopath" and a "narcissist" on Facebook in 2016 and is still employed at Keith Elementary School.
I'll let the legal eagles correct me if I'm wrong, but this could constitute a clear-cut, textbook case of viewpoint discrimination and wrongful termination. The Estes comparison looks like an apples-to-apples object lesson. One instructor in the district heaped scorn on President Trump in a social media post "without any repercussions." Another rather innocuously hinted at his support for Trump and made a snide remark about liberals, and he was axed. Not reprimanded or warned. Fired. If Kucera's account is generally accurate, it's time for a lawsuit, which may be more potent because of Kucera's decision not to knuckle under and force his superiors to actually fire him. Institutions and officials who allow their own biases or gutlessness in the face of the mob to dictate decisions that harm someone's life or career must be held accountable. Pain must be associated with these sorts of decisions, even if that pain needs to be extracted. Many conservatives abhor litigiousness, and rightly so, but people need to fight back against this prevailing insanity -- just as this student is righteously planning to do against his university in New York:
Austin Tong, a Chinese immigrant, posted in early June a picture of himself holding a “legally obtained” firearm with the caption “Don’t tread on me.” According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the caption “also included an American flag emoji, a Chinese flag emoji, and a hashtag commonly used by Chinese citizens to avoid censorship of online discussion of the Tiananmen Square massacre.” The previous day, Tong had put up a photo of slain (retired) St. Louis police officer David Dorn, who was killed by rioters in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. Tong, a supporter of Black Lives Matter, wrote “Y’all a bunch of hypocrites,” a reference to the “nonchalant societal reaction” over Dorn’s death. A few days later, Tong received a letter informing him that Dean of Students Keith Eldredge found he violated “university regulations relating to bias and/or hate crimes” and had made “threats [and] intimidation.” Disciplinary measures against Tong include being barred from campus (he must take courses online for the upcoming academic year), completion of “activities related to learning about implicit bias,” and a letter of apology to Dean Eldredge...Tong noted on Instagram that he “will be taking legal action”...
Make them pay. Literally. As long as the Wokeness Wars are active, weak or bigoted decision-makers need to feel pressure from both sides, not just the loudest shouters. This satisfying example comes to mind. Unfortunately, the country needs more Oberlin judgments these days.
Parting thought: Will Michigan's teachers' union actively back Kucera? After all, such organizations routinely defend members against consequences for all manner of misconduct and poor performance. This should be a slam dunk by comparison, no? According to the Free Beacon, "a teachers' union representative that accompanied Kucera at the meeting did not respond to a request for comment." Neither did the administrators who made this decision, nor did either of the teachers whose jobs were not jeopardized by their own political conduct. Here's Kucera in happier times, just a few months ago:
And Turley is right that someone must be lying:
...There is obviously a concern that this action occurred so soon after the tweets. It would be useful for the District to state that it did not raise the tweets as the purpose of this meeting. It could also address whether teachers are allowed to engage in political speech.— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) July 22, 2020