For the second time in his school year, an Illinois high school student had an issue with his teacher over his refusal to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.
This time, it cost a Chicago high school teacher his job.
Driver’s education teacher, Vince Ziebarth, was told he made “inappropriate comments” to Eisenhower High School sophomore Shemar Cooper when he spoke about standing for the Pledge, according to the Chicago Tribune.
— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) March 22, 2017
“I told him he can make a choice to sit, but as long as you choose to sit, you will not sit in my (drivers ed) vehicle,” Ziebarth told The Tribune.
Cooper claimed his reason for not standing was a matter of respect.
“America doesn’t respect Blacks so why should I respect America?” the 15-year-old told WGN TV News.
Although there are seven other driving teachers at the school, Cooper wanted to ride with Ziebarth because some of his friends did. Students at the school are allowed to choose which teacher they want to ride with during the semester. Cooper had one lesson with Ziebarth in February and asked to go again when a group of friends did.
“I didn’t want to say anything to him then, with other students in the car,” the teacher said, but he spoke to him privately at a later time.
“I told him I stand to honor the sacrifice and bravery of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It doesn’t mean America is perfect, or that we agree with everything going on,” he said. Ziebarth’s grandfather served as a Marine in World War II and his uncle served in Vietnam.
“We had an understanding. He was making a choice, and I was making a choice. His name never appeared on my sign-up sheet again, so I thought it was over,” Ziebarth said.
But Ziebarth, who was not a tenured teacher or under contract, found himself without a job on March 16.
“I was given no options. Had the principal told me I had to allow Shemar in my car, I would have,” he said.
This was not Cooper’s first incident with the Pledge of Allegiance at his school. His mother, Kelley Porter Turner, reported at the beginning of the school year that another teacher allegedly grabbed her son’s arm in an effort to make him stand, the Tribune reported. that teacher was reprimanded but not fired.
After her son told her about the incident with Ziebarth, Porter Turner said she “brushed it off and let it go.” But when Cooper told his mother that the teacher “wouldn’t let it go,” she contacted an administrator at the school.
“She called me two days later and said he was going to be terminated,” Porter Turner said. She then contacted the news media.
“If my son didn’t say anything to me, (the teacher) would have continued — and that’s bullying,” she said. “He violated my son’s First Amendment rights.”
Students are fighting back at Eisenhower High School with an online petition at change.org to “Get Mr. Z back at Ike.” Ziebarth was a full-time driver’s education teacher at the school since January 2014 and worked in the district since 2009.
“Mr. Z is an amazing teacher, brought life into the students life, whenever they had a bad day he was always there! He knew everyone and supported you through everything!” read the petition that has garnered over 1,100 signatures as of this writing.
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