MANCHESTER, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri substitute teacher is seeking answers after claiming he was banned because he thanked students for saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jim Furkin has worked as a sub for about a decade in St. Louis County’s Parkway School District, mostly at Parkway South High School, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday.
Furkin told the school board Thursday that he was subbing in a freshman English class in October. As is custom, students said the pledge after morning announcements. Most, but not all, stood.
“There are always two or three who don’t stand up because it’s not required. So at the end of the pledge I said, ‘Thanks to all of you that participated in that. I’m sure that all of those families who lost loved ones so that we could enjoy the freedoms we have today would appreciate the effort,’” Furkin said.
One student asked to go to the counselor’s office, Furkin said. Later a school administrator questioned Furkin about what happened and told him that a student had been “hurt” by what was said after the pledge.
“I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, that wasn’t my intent at all,’” Furkin said. “He said, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ and then the next day after that, I’m no longer welcome in the building.”
District spokeswoman Cathy Kelly wouldn’t comment on Furkin’s specific case but released a statement Friday from the district. It said students choose whether to participate in the pledge or not, “and our role as educators is not to make a judgment about that choice.”
According to the statement, the district would not recommend that a substitute teacher be restricted based on an isolated incident.
“Several factors, including prior concerns at other schools, would be taken into consideration before making a recommendation,” the statement read.
Kelly Educational Staffing, the agency that employs Furkin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Furkin said the staffing agency told him that he wasn’t being allowed back because he had “bullied” a student.
“To me personally, the flag represents freedom, and there’s a lot of price that’s been paid for the freedom we have today,” Furkin said. “That’s all I’m saying to the kids. ... Could somebody feel offended by that? I would hope not.”