When River Ridge High School math teacher Lyn Orletsky instructed two boys in her pre-calculus class to turn their “Make America Great Again” T-shirts inside out to conceal the slogan, her motivation was not political, she said. After teaching five years in conservative Cherokee County where nearly three out of four voters endorsed Donald Trump in November, Orletsky had seen many pro Trump shirts in her classroom.
But this was Aug. 31, two weeks after white supremacists and Neo Nazis adopted “Make America Great Again” as their rallying cry in Charlottesville, Va. A counterdemonstrator was killed and others injured when one of the marchers drove his car intentionally into a crowd. Orletsky feared the slogan would intimidate the minority students who comprised a third of her math class that morning.
“I told the boys, in light of everything that has happened, I don’t think this is an appropriate slogan to be wearing at school. Could they please go to the restroom and turn the shirt inside out?” said Orletsky in an interview Thursday morning in Marietta, her first since the story made national headlines last week.
The boys asked what was wrong with the slogan. The math teacher explained it had been commandeered by white supremacist movement, as the swastika had been by Nazis. Recast by hate groups, the campaign slogan could affect some of their classmates in a negative way, she said, explaining, “There is nothing wrong with a shirt of President Trump. The problem is with the slogan.”
Her request to the boys — captured on grainy student cellphone video and given to a conservative website — has led to death threats, her removal from her classroom and AP calculus students without a teacher. To read more about this controversial case that has dominated conservative political websites, go to the AJC Get Schooled site. There is also a video interview with Orletsky there.