Brett Meteyer, a fourth grade teacher at Explorer Elementary School in Williamston (MI), wrote the following letter to parents of the 10 year-olds in his class just before Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States.
Because I am concerned about my students and your children being exposed to language and behavior that is not in concert with the most conservative social and family values, I have decided to show the inauguration of Donald Trump this Friday, but we will not view Mr. Trump’s inauguration speech.
Because every peaceful transition of power is a historic moment, I put in a request to the Trump team to preview the speech, but I have not heard back from them.
I showed the speeches of Presidents Obama and Bush in 2009 and 2005, respectively, but I am anxious about showing Mr. Trump’s inaugural address, given his past inflammatory and degrading comments about minorities, women, and the disabled. I am also uneasy about Mr. Trump’s casual use of profanity, so I sought an assurance that as their teacher, I would not be exposing children to language that would not appear in G- or PG-rated movies.
I do not know if Mr. Trump’s speech is something that would be provided to the press or
concerned citizens beforehand, but these plans may change if I hear back from them.
The district of four schools is located just east of Lansing, the state capitol and home to Michigan State University. There are just over 1800 students in the district. District enrollment is predominately white and has 15 percent of its students eligible for free and reduced price lunch.
Did he get blow-back from allowing his students to see the Inauguration but and not listen to the President’s speech? Yes, he did. One article said:
The email was forwarded to [Steve] Gruber, [a local radio host] who also has children within the same district, by a parent who was listening to his program, The Steve Gruber Show.
“As the son of a fifth grade teacher, it infuriates me when those in charge of our kids are trying to train them instead of teaching them,” Gruber told Watchdog.org. “I found the letter to be outrageous!”
Gruber also posted Meteyer’s letter on Facebook.
“Facebook immediately exploded,” Gruber told Watchdog. “What kind of message does this send to kids? ‘This president is a bad guy and kids should not watch him’? This is a piece of history, and the kids should be allowed to watch.”
Gruber said he called Meteyer at his home on Tuesday to ask about his stance and that the teacher replied, “I don’t need to justify what I did to you.” Gruber said Meteyer also told him, “I feel good about what I’ve done,” and that he stands by his letter.
A Fox News outlet had reactions from other Michigan parents:
Several parents across Mid-Michigan felt Meteyer is cheating his students.
“Any child that’s curious about the inaugural address, I think should be allowed to watch it,” said Henry Lussier, Imlay City resident.
Kyle Welch, from Detroit, said he wasn’t interested in presidential addresses when he was a kid, but he doesn’t believe students should be censored.
“You don’t have to agree with him, but I think they have the right to see the speech,” Welch said.
And the fourth grade teacher’s boss? What were reactions of district administrators?
Narda Murphy, superintendent of Williamston Community Schools, wrote a letter to families explaining that teachers are expected to teach the curriculum in a balanced manner and “demonstrate good judgment in their communications with families.” The letter also noted that the district won’t comment on specific employee issues.
“Each teacher determines classroom instruction, and we encourage parents to contact them if they have concerns,” she said.
Individual teachers, not the administration, make the decision to show students the presidential inauguration ceremonies, Murphy said.
Here, then, is a teacher who made a decision about a civic lesson for 10 year-olds on the Presidential Inauguration. In managing the dilemma of being being both autonomous to make classroom decisions yet obligated to adhere to professional and community norms, he made a choice. Of the four choices available, according to Diana Hess’s framework (denial, privilege, avoidance, and balance) which did he make?