To all the readers finding my site via Google or another search, I thought it useful to the debate to link to an industrious blogger putting together a factual response to many of Colorado geography teacher Jay Bennish’s claims in his 20-minute tirade. (HT: Hugh Hewitt)
This advances the debate even farther than I summarized it last night.
The Rocky Mountain News reports that Jay Bennish lawyer David Lane plans to file a lawsuit in federal court this morning to put the highly controversial teacher back in the classroom. Bennish is currently on paid administrative leave while the Cherry Creek School District conducts an investigation based on his 20-minute recorded left-wing political tirade. From the News story:
“I know about 10 federal judges who are more than willing to teach the Cherry Creek School District what the First Amendment is all about,” his attorney, David Lane, said Thursday.
Lane said he expects to file a federal lawsuit as early as this morning, and that seeking a court order to return Bennish to the classroom is one option he might pursue.
He called district administrators “scared little rabbits” who bowed to pressure from parents when they suspended Bennish.
A public school district takes heed of some of its customers and its own policies, and out of the rhetorical bag comes the “scared little rabbits” description? Puh-lease. It’s cute and clever rhetoric by David Lane. But who is there to stand up and call school district officials “scared little rabbits” for agreeing to collective bargaining provisions that subsidize the union at taxpayers’ expense or provisions that mandate the deduction of political funds from union member paychecks? Who does the public education system serve, anyway – parents & taxpayers, or employee interest groups?
The ability to say whatever you want on the job – including as a teacher in the classroom – without employment sanctions is not protected by the First Amendment. How ironic, therefore, that this story should come hard on the heels of a study released showing that only one in four Americans can name more than one of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. And how many of those Americans learned about civics, or U.S. history, or geography in a classroom taught by someone like Jay Bennish? What a vicious, and frightening, cycle.
Rather than let the investigation play out, Bennish and Lane have chosen to make a federal case out of this, virtually ensuring that it will stay hot in the media spotlight for quite awhile – which also means that if the case interests you, you should bookmark Mount Virtus to find ongoing analysis of developments in this case.
Other good reads:
Michael at Best Destiny draws similar connections between the Bennish case and the parental demand for more school choice.
Mr. Bob of The Daily Blogster, an Overland HS alum, remembers having a similar classroom experience years ago.
More disgust from RichieD at Exvigilare, who also used to attend Overland.
One of Colorado’s best blogs, View from a Height, further dissects the nonsense in the Bennish recording.
Finally, Slapstick Politics has some links to more video & info here, and a comparison with another local workplace free speech story here.
Due to overwhelming popular demand, I thought I would respond to a couple commenters from my previous post on the gigantic Jay Bennish flap, and shed a little more light on the whole topic. When a story erupts and spreads through the media – old & new – as fast as this one has, the caution needs to be made that we don’t make hasty judgments that outstrip the evidence we have. Furthermore, we should promote a healthy, moderate, and reasonable tone to the debate. No one I have seen is calling for violence to be done against any of the parties involved, and that should hold for both supporters of Bennish and for those like me who admire the smart and courageous 16-year-old Sean Allen.
That being said, I think some judgments can be made in light of the extended and unedited nature of the recording (which has been played on every conservative radio talk show I observed today). Specifically, the following can be stated:
Apparently convinced that he doesn’t look enough like Ward Churchill in the public eye, controversial Overland High School teacher Jay Bennish has hired ACLU attorney David Lane to represent him during Cherry Creek School District’s ongoing investigation, reports The Conservative Voice. (HT to John at Stop the ACLU)
In his Thursday metro side column, the Post‘s David Harsanyi shines the light on a series of cases that give Coloradans plenty of reason to be cynical about politics. Maybe as cynical as one of my commenters, who after my post on Deanna Hanna’s more legally serious misdeeds implied that I was ignoring the Stengel affair because of party loyalties.
Memo to commenter: sorry for giving you an excuse to feed your cynicism. If you would care to respond to this post and reveal your identity, my respect for you will increase greatly.
Harsanyi’s lead case is indeed that of Republican House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, who charged taxpayers for 240 days of work last year, including a trip to Hawaii. Yesterday, five of Stengel’s constituents formally called for an Ethics Committee investigation. It may be time for such a course of action, though the danger exists that any action will be tainted by those striving for partisan political advantage.
Even so, the Republican representative from Arapahoe County needs to remain transparent and willing to accept the legitimate consequences that he may soon face – including the potential findings of an Ethics Committee. His admittedly “bad judgment” has been a distraction from the party’s agenda. Strong consideration should be given to replacing Stengel in his leadership post as a means to end the distraction, and to show the GOP has a higher standard of accountability to the taxpayer. At the least, the unprecedented billing of 240 days in one year looks bad, very bad. While technically legal under an ambiguous code, his actions erred on the wrong side of ethical judgment.
Stengel did the right thing by issuing a formal apology and returning 9 days’ pay from the Hawaii vacation and his study for the bar exam – though he may have waited too long to do so. Only time will tell if he has done enough.
Update: Developments are happening faster than anticipated. News reports indicate Stengel has resigned his minority leader post and called a special Republican caucus meeting to choose a replacement. Kudos to him for a tough decision. Speculation about the potential replacement begins – Bill Cadman, Al White, and Mike May have to be names in consideration – but we’ll see where it goes. Unlike the analysis from the other side, I think resigning now will be a help and not “a hit” to the GOP in the long run.
Now what are Democrats going to do about Senator Hanna?