Chicago teacher fired for telling student to stand for Pledge of Allegiance

Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance before the start of school

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Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance before the start of school

A Chicago-area teacher was fired this month for telling a student to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Vince Ziebarth, a full-time driver's ed teacher at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Illinois, was upset when one of his students wouldn't stand for the pledge. He told the student to either get on his feet or forgo that day's driving lesson.

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“I told him he can make a choice to sit, but as long as you choose to sit, you will not sit in my [driver’s ed] vehicle,” Ziebarth said, arguing that he gave the student a choice. “I did not tell him what to do.”

However, when the student, Shemar Cooper, told his mother about the incident, she wasn’t pleased.

“If my son didn’t say anything to me, [the teacher] would have continued — and that’s bullying,” Cooper’s mother, Kelley Porter Turner, told the Tribune. “He violated my son’s First Amendment rights.”

Ziebarth, whose grandfather served in World War II, and his uncle in Vietnam, said he explained to Cooper why standing for the pledge is so important.

“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 told the Tribune. “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.”

The school employs seven other driver’s ed teachers, and students are allowed to choose which teacher they want to ride with. After their first conversation, Ziebarth said he and Cooper often “joked” about the ordeal, but Porter didn’t find it funny and complained to the school.

“I was given no options. Had the principal told me I had to allow Shemar in my car, I would have,” Ziebarth said of the day he was fired. “The punishment does not fit the crime.”

At the beginning of the school year, another teacher at the school was suspended for one day after grabbing Cooper's arm during the pledge in an effort to get him to stand.

Cooper, whose uncle served in the Army and grandfather served in World War II, said he made the decision to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance as an act of defiance against the rise of reported incidents of police brutality against black Americans last year.

Read the full story at the The Chicago Tribune.

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