School bans Georgia gov candidate from rallying for teacher’s firing on campus

Senator Mike Crane (left), R-Newnan, and Senator Michael Williams, R-Cumming, confer. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

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Senator Mike Crane (left), R-Newnan, and Senator Michael Williams, R-Cumming, confer. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Republican Michael Williams traded barbs with the Cherokee County school district on Monday over his plans to rally this week at a high school to urge the firing of a teacher who tried to require students in her class to turn their pro-Donald Trump T-shirts inside out.

Cherokee spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby told Williams that River Ridge High School is off-limits for his Wednesday protest, and warned that it would “significantly disrupt teaching and learning and may endanger the safety of more than 3,200 students and staff.”

"While we strongly support the Constitutional right to air grievances through peaceful protest," the spokeswoman wrote, "we support the courts' interpretation that this right is limited in regard to school campuses." (You can find the text of the entire note here.)

Williams' campaign said it planned to go forward with the protest, and said that it took the district's warning as a threat.

“The arrogance of such statements is insulting to myself and our peaceful protesters,” Williams said in a statement. “We will not be intimidated by your deceitful statement meant to prevent our lawful right to assemble. The protest will continue as planned.”

Williams, a state senator, is one of the lesser-known Republican candidates for governor and his bid for office has focused on attention-grabbing press conferences and events that defy the usual norms of campaigning.

His rally targets Lyn Orletsky, who is on paid administrative leave following an incident in class where a student recorded her saying T-shirts with "Make America Great Again" were the equivalent of wearing a swastika.

She said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her motivation was not political and that her remarks came shortly after white supremacists adopted the Trump slogan as a rallying cry at the violent rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Williams has faced conservative criticism since calling for the firing of Orletsky, whom he called a “liberal activist teacher.” Among them is Erick Erickson, the pundit who wrote that Williams’ rally was “profoundly morally wrong” and could expose the district to a lawsuit.

(Erickson works for WSB, which shares a corporate overlord with the AJC.)

"The school system already defended the First Amendment. They disciplined the teacher. They told the kids they could wear those shirts," Erickson wrote at The Resurgent. "This isn't about the First Amendment, but about extortionist behavior by someone running for office trying to get attention."