A New York state high school teacher has been removed from the classroom by his district after bragging on Facebook last month that he once failed two students because they refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Newsday reported that Steven Solomon, a health teacher at Uniondale High School, was reassigned on Nov. 15 after several residents complained to the school board about his social media post. Uniondale is a small community on Long Island.
“The school district is aware of a teacher posting on social media about a situation involving grades and standing for the Pledge of Allegiance that occurred more than a decade ago,” Uniondale Superintendent William Lloyd said in a statement obtained by Newsday. “The District has taken the proactive measure of assigning this faculty member to out-of-classroom duties until further investigation into the matter can be completed.”
Solomon told New York City’s WABC-TV that the students “failed themselves.”
“They had less than a passing grade, and that, combined with poor behavior, which included -- part of it was they didn’t stand for the pledge, they said they didn’t care if these military people lived or died,” Solomon told the news station.
The longtime teacher said the students disrespected him, themselves and their families.
“They had many behavioral write-ups. So, it was a combination,” Solomon said. “What am I supposed to do, reward kids with a failing grade who have poor discipline?”
The Facebook comment obtained by WABC-TV showed, however, that Solomon told a friend he ordinarily would have passed the students, despite the failing grades.
“Well, I know God has a sense of humor because both of these unpatriotic kids ended up with a 63 (average), and under ordinary circumstances I would have passed them both,” Solomon wrote. “Instead I failed them both.
“Well, the next year, miraculously, I had them both back in my homeroom class and, when I asked the class to stand, these two suckers were the first up! True story!”
Solomon wrote in the comment that he went against his principal’s orders when he tried to make the teens stand.
“(The students) went to the principal complaining I couldn’t legally make them stand. The principal told me not to make them stand,” he wrote.
The teens were within their legal right to refrain from standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. A 1943 Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia -- West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette -- protects students from having to say the pledge in school.
“I told the students standing for the flag was showing respect for the men of the military who risked their lives to protect our freedoms,” Solomon wrote in the Facebook comment. “They said, ‘We didn’t ask them to.’”
Solomon wrote that when the students refused to stand again the following day, he threatened their grades.
“I told them that is true, and that what makes this country great is ‘that I didn’t have to pass them, either,’” he wrote.
Solomon denied that he failed the students solely because they didn’t stand for the pledge and said he was “goofing off to a friend” when he wrote the post, WABC-TV reported.
“I thought this just went to him,” Solomon told the news station. “This person said, ‘Teachers don’t teach respect anymore, don’t have kids stand for the pledge anymore.’ And I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not true.’”
He said the students were “not choir kids,” but were teens who said they didn’t care if military members lived or died.
“I never put down any kid I ever taught,” Solomon said. “I bring kids up. I build the kids up. I regret that that came out. That was meant for one person to read. Not everyone.”
He questioned the district’s decision to remove him from his classroom.
“Because I want kids to have respect and stand for the pledge and have respect for people in this country, they want to try to suspend me and fire me?” Solomon said. “What message does that show?”
Newsday reported that Solomon has taught in the Uniondale district for 30 years.
Solomon is not the only educator to come under fire in recent months for trying to force students to stand during the pledge. The Midland, Texas, school district found itself facing questions in September after juniors and seniors at Midland High School attended a presentation that included a PowerPoint slide that stated it was the law to stay standing during the pledge.
In the weeks following the controversy, Midland Independent School District officials clarified that Texas law requires the inclusion of the pledge and a moment of silence each school day, but stated that the district’s policy has provisions allowing parents to opt their children out of participating.
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