A Dublin, Ga., middle school teacher who in March told her students that President Barack Obama isn’t a Christian has been removed from the classroom to pave the way for her retirement at the end of the school year.
Dublin Schools Chuck Ledbetter announced the retirement of Nancy Perry early Tuesday morning, while simultaneously apologizing to students and parents for Perry’s actions.
“It is not the place of teachers to attempt to persuade students about religious or political beliefs,” Ledbetter said. “In doing so, the teacher was wrong and that has been communicated to her… Just as importantly, we are communicating this message to all staff of the school district.”
In March, Perry a veteran teacher at Dublin Middle School, told her students that the president is not a Christian — and that anyone who voted for him was not a Christian. Parents protested and the NAACP called for sanctions against Perry.
Repeated calls to Perry have not been returned, but she has told a television station that she did not make the comments attributed to her.
Ledbetter said he will work closely with the Dublin Board of Education to schedule training sessions for the district’s professional staff, “ensuring that the administration, from the central office to the principal of each school, clearly and consistently communicate to teachers our expectations.”
“We expect these subjects to become a regular part of our annual training of staff,” Ledbetter said. “We also intend to plan for greater emphasis within the curriculum on the contributions, history, and culture of diverse people groups.”
In addition to the removal of Perry, Ledbetter has also put in place reforms to prevent members of the Dublin school board from sitting in on parent-teacher meetings.
Immediately after parents complained to Nancy Perry about her comments, a meeting was set up to address them.
Although Perry has said that she never made the comments, at the meeting, according to the NAACP, she “presented to the parents a packet of several pages from a website that expressed her views on religion and politics. … The parents’ concern was exacerbated by the teacher’s unwillingness to even consider the possibility that her classroom conduct was not conducive to a healthy learning environment.”
Perry’s views followed a familiar false narrative about Obama that has plagued him since he entered the national stage in 2004 as a U.S. senator in Illinois.
Critics have argued that because of his unique background he is anti-Christian, an atheist or, most commonly, he secretly practices Islam.
Those claims have only intensified since he was elected president in 2008.
According to the Pew Research Center, as recently as 2012, 17 percent of voters identified Obama as a Muslim. That view was especially prevalent among conservative Republicans: 34 percent of them identified him as a Muslim.
Obama identifies as a Christian.
Perry was also joined at the meeting by her husband, school board member Bill Perry. Parents saw that as a form of intimidation. Bill Perry is a former radio show host in Dublin, where his Saturday morning show touched on topics like gay marriage and religion.
Ledbetter has ordered all school principals to call his office immediately when a school board member tries to get involved in day-to-day school activities. NAACP officials had threatened to involve the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency, arguing that Bill Perry was “micromanaging” the schools.
“An individual board member should not participate in a parent/teacher or parent/principal conference nor should an individual board member in any way attempt to involve himself in a parental concern or a personnel matter at the school level,” Ledbetter said. “Again, this has been communicated directly to the board member by the board of education and made clear to the principals in our schools that this is not to be allowed.”
“As regrettable as this incident is, we believe that we can build from it to make an even better school system for all of our children,” Ledbetter said. “We will continue to work to build our relationships with every student and with every family.”
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