Parents: Teacher silenced son on hunting

Discussion in 'Legal and Activism' started by tracker, Jun 20, 2008.

  1. tracker

    tracker Guest

    By Dennis Jensen Herald Staff

    BENNINGTON — Saying their son was "silenced" by his teacher for talking about hunting in the classroom, the parents of a fourth-grade student at North Bennington Graded School took their son out of school and have taken their case to the local school board.

    Jared Harrington's mother, Wendy Bordwell, and his father, Martin Harrington, removed their son from school with 10 days left in the school year and home-schooled the 10-year-old boy.

    "We are aggressively pursuing Jared's right to free speech," Bordwell said.

    The couple addressed the local school board Monday night to air their grievance.

    Bordwell said in a telephone interview that she believed her son was "singled out" by Kathleen Backus, Jared's teacher, while talking about hunting with a schoolmate.

    Bordwell said that, during snack time, Jared was discussing the recent spring turkey hunting season with a classmate when Backus interrupted the conversation, insisting that there be no talk of "killing" in her classroom.

    Reached through a relative, Backus declined to comment.

    At Monday's board meeting, Bordwell read from a prepared statement.

    "I believe that Ms. Backus' perception of hunting and hunters have led her to treat Jared in an inappropriate manner, singling him out unfairly," she told the board.

    "The breaking point for us, his parents, came when Jared was sharing a conversation during his free period snack time at school. He was talking with a friend about the recent spring 2008 turkey season. Both boys had been out hunting with their dads and Jared was asking his friend where he had gotten his first turkey.

    "Jared's teacher covered her ears, trying to block the conversation, and singing 'la la la la.' When asked by another school employee about her odd behavior, the teacher claimed she did not want to hear about the boys and their 'killing.' The boys were left feeling that they were not legitimate hunters, but 'killers' in the eyes of an important authority figure in their lives," Bordwell said.

    Jared "has a working knowledge of firearms, archery and the sport of hunting," Bordwell said.

    In an interview, Boardwell said that while Backus told her and Jared's father "emphatically that she had no problem with hunting," her comments made it clear that she did, in fact, deplore sport hunting.

    Bordwell said that after the incident at school, Jared's father approached Backus, questioning the teacher about her "reprimand" of his son.

    "The confrontation ended with Ms. Backus demanding that Marty leave the classroom, screeching, 'I went hiking this weekend and saw a moose and a bear, and I will never tell you where they are because you might kill them," Bordwell said.

    Bordwell suggested to the board that a decision by Backus to eliminate all free snack periods in the classroom, changing them to "working" snack time for the remainder of the school year, was designed to stop the flow of free conversation among Jared and the other students.

    Bordwell said in the interview that the "working" snack time was designed by Backus to intimidate Jared.

    "In this way, she would have control over any conversation," Bordwell said, "and we felt that kind of management plan would single Jared out among his peers. It was created and designed to silence him."

    At that point, Bordwell said, it was decided to home-school Jared.

    "And since we decided to remove Jared from school for the last 10 days of school, we've learned that the "working" snack time has never been imposed," she said.

    After Jared's parents decided to take up the matter with the school board, Backus assigned 137 pages of homework for the boy.

    "That led us to believe he was being singled out," Bordwell said.

    Martin Harrington owns and operates Marty's Sporting Goods in Bennington, so Jared has been around firearms and sport hunting since he was a very young boy, Bordwell said.

    School Principal Thomas Martin said he is confident the administration and the school board "can reach a reasonable understanding" among the parties involved in the matter.

    "It's not a huge issue," Martin said in an interview. "Marty is a good kid and Kathleen is a good teacher. The focus is on the kid. We want to try to meet his needs. Kathy cares a great deal about kids. She's troubled a great deal about this."

    Martin said the issue is neither "black and white or right and wrong. It's more complicated than that. It's brushing up against a number of things that are important to a lot of people and issues relating to the classroom. Emotions start to feed into it when people's belief systems come into play," he said.

    Martin said he would not support any move that would inhibit conversations about any student's hobby, "as long as it is in the parameters of good taste."

    After both sides in the issue have been heard, Martin said, he expects a fair solution.

    "Obviously, I'd like to see Jared in school," he said. "It's obviously a concern for me. He's a sweet kid; he's a great boy."
  2. jeepcreep927

    jeepcreep927 Active Member

    Amazing. I live in Vermont, and I can assure anyone that hunting in this state is about as common as any other hobby. Seeing someone walking alongside the road with a gun one just assumes they are hunting and came out on the road. No need for alarm. Anyhow, Vermont is funny in the sense that the population is split between people who either are okay with hunting or absolutely detest it. Unfortunately, hunting has been one of the only things that hasn't been attacked by the state government as "wrong" (in some sense). I would bet that the teacher won't see any reprimand for stifling this kids conversation only because she personally doesn't approve. The schools now cover same sex relationships in health class, which I don't approve of. The use of marijuana is almost accepted. If I voice my disapproal of same sex relationships, I am labeled as a biggot. If I say that smoking pot is not okay, I am infringing on someone's right to their own body and to ingest whatever they want. I guarantee if the kid was talking about his two daddys and the teacher forbid it, she'd be unemployed and probably sued. We are not so slowly becoming the Kalifornia of the east.

  3. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    Completely ridiculous, as usual. There is no way the school board wins this one if the parents wish to pursue. I suppose it would have been "healthier" to talk about "playing" with Barbie? :eek:

  4. BigO01

    BigO01 New Member

    Wrong , it is a huge issue and the stupid teacher should be worried because to anyone with any common sense it is a Black and white issue .

    If what the boys were speaking of is accurately described at the point she felt she needed to block her hearing and begin acting like a child by singing out loud all the boys were talking about was the location part of the hunt not anything to do with killing anything .

    IN any conversation of a successful hunt the description of taking the shot is actually the shortest sentence in there .

    If she is so childish that she can't act like an adult and simply ignore this she needs psychiatric help in a very bad way and has no business being allowed to be around small children .

    If they boys were going out of their way to describe the killing and butchering of the animal in gory terms and drew out that part of the conversation in a way they were intentionally trying to annoy people thats one thing , but to speak in simple matter of fact language is a completely different situation .

    Even if she is rabidly anti hunting this entire thing could have been handled without her abusing her authority , by politely asking the boys to go to another part of the room to have their conversation and not speak loud enough for her to hear it .

    Considering the "Kids" she is working with are only 10 it sounds like the boys are more emotionally mature than she is . If she can't find an easy solution to something like this what else might she do to over react in other situations with other subjects she feels strongly about ?

    The women needs to be put on a leave until she has gotten professional help and learns to cope with her emotional problems before she is allowed to be around young children all day long .
  5. bkt

    bkt New Member

    Ms. Backus is way out of line and I disagree with her completely.

    But there are no "free speech" issues at stake here. Schools act in loco parentis, or in the place of the parent. And just as parents may tell kids to be quiet, so may schools or their direct representatives -- teachers -- do the same thing.

    If Ms. Backus is otherwise a great teacher, she should be taught conservation and taught about hunting. If this still offends her to the point she can't listen to kids discuss it, she should find a new line of work.
  6. alsaqr

    alsaqr Well-Known Member Supporter

    That teacher needs an attitude adjustment.

    You know you're a hillbilly if they shut down the schools for deer season-WVa.
  7. RL357Mag

    RL357Mag New Member

    Towns like Bennigton, Arlington, Manchester, and Dorset were once rural country towns with small town country mentalities & morals with decent people. These towns are now left-wing Liberal playgrounds. I live less than a mile from the Vt. border and my sister lived in Bennigton/Arlington and then Manchester in the mid 80's. The only attraction these towns now have are the designer outlets which is where the rich Liberals to spend their money. Almost all of the small country stores have been put out of business or can't afford to do business there anymore. Vermont has become like Ct. and Mass.
    It is one of the most Liberal states in the northeast.
  8. ScottG

    ScottG Active Member

    You know, maybe the teacher just isn't from a hunting background. We certainly can't fault her for being unaware of what hunting means to many people. Perhaps someone could offer to take her out on their next hunt.

    Any volunteers to take teach on a snipe hunt???? :D
  9. RL357Mag

    RL357Mag New Member

    LOL - I was gonna respond similarly until I read your last line!