“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.