ThunderRidge Teacher Faces Scrutiny for Class Time Politicking

April 25, 2013
By

A Douglas County teacher is facing scrutiny for engaging in political advocacy during class time

DENVER – Most parents expect teachers to be focused on educating students during school hours.  But in Douglas County, at least one politically active teacher appears to be spending a significant amount of classroom time running a one-man social media campaign against the local Board of Education.

A number of parents with children enrolled in Brian White’s classes at ThunderRidge High School have raised concerns about the teacher, who they say is using the school’s network and computer resources to engage in political activism on Facebook and Twitter during class time – a potential violation of district policy.

Several parents, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have contacted the principal to complain about White’s advocacy.

The parents say they prefer to keep their names confidential for fear that if their names become public, their children may face retaliation.

An investigation by The Colorado Observer revealed that White tweeted more than a dozen times during school hours between January 23 and April 22, and posted over 40 times to Facebook during school hours between March 15 and April 25.

“Wake up DCSD parents,” White posted recently on Facebook.  “Do you really think these special interests care about your kids?”

The post was made at 9:07am on a Friday morning.  Classes at ThunderRidge High School begin at 7:40AM, and the last class ends at 2:50PM.

Last Friday, again during school hours at 8:39am, White again blasted the school board (which he repeatedly refers to online as “the regime”), posting “This board has cut funding and programs at our schools unnecessarily, which has resulted in fewer opportunities for our students, not more.” 

Later – but still during school hours at 11:29am – White rebuked another Facebook user on the social media site, declaring “Teachers who want to join the teacher’s union VOLUNTARILY contribute dues. It really isn’t any of your business what teachers do with their own money.”

Many school districts have policies against employees using public resources and class time for political purposes, including the Douglas County School District (DCSD).

The DCSD Employee Computer and Internet Use policy defines “Prohibited Use” as “Any use as a forum for communicating by e-mail or any other medium with other school users or outside parties to solicit, proselytize, advocate, or communicate the views of an individual or non-school sponsored organization; to solicit membership in or support of any non-school sponsored organization; to raise funds for any non-school sponsored purpose, whether profit or non-for-profit; or to engage in political activities or campaigns.”

In a recent NPR piece discussing teachers’ use of Facebook and Twitter, Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the New Jersey teachers union says, one thing most professionals agree on is that it is inappropriate “to post during work hours or using work materials such as a school computer, and certainly never post anything about your job online.”

“I think that’s where some of these teachers have found themselves in difficult situations.” Wollmer added.

Many DougCo parents see little educational value in White’s rants against the district or the superintendent, and they are concerned that his repeated posting on Facebook and Twitter detracts from valuable classroom time that should be spent teaching students.

Parents also worry that their kids may face retribution if they do not agree with the political views of their teacher.

“He’s supposed to be a role model, instead, he allows his students to push his buttons to get him all riled up in order to waste class time…it’s completely inappropriate,” said a district parent who filed a complaint with the high school principal but spoke on condition of anonymity.

The concern over teachers using taxpayer time and resources to engage in political advocacy is not unique to Douglas County.

Earlier this month, a high school athletic director in Illinois was called out by community members for trying to pressure students to get their parents to vote for a referendum, enlisting teenagers as “political foot soldiers.”

In Florida, an algebra instructor was fired for urging students to vote for President Obama.  Officials finally removed the teacher earlier this month after a months-long investigation into complaints that the registered Democrat distributed partisan campaign materials and promoted partisan politics in her math classes.

This is not the first time that White has come under scrutiny for allegedly using district resources for political purposes, and it is unclear what action, if any, will be taken in response to the recent complaints.

Neither White nor Thunder Ridge Principal Carol Jennings responded to requests for comment by press time.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

13 Responses to ThunderRidge Teacher Faces Scrutiny for Class Time Politicking

  1. A Parent
    April 25, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    “their children may face retaliation” – what a sad commentary on the state of our K-12 and higher education “institutions”.

    Keep talking to your kids, parents, because they do listen and common sense and critical thinking are beautiful things!

    Everyday we read stories of administrators and teachers being exposed as community organizers for the left’s agenda.

    There are too many eyes watching and ears listening now for them to succeed and slowly they are failing with that agenda.

  2. Dabney Crayon
    April 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    This teachers union rep. deserves to be fired.

  3. Parent in Highlands Ranch
    April 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Oh my goodness, this is my area’s High School. That’s really upsetting. Why would a teacher drag kids into his personal political battle? The fact that parents and students are afraid of him and won’t come forward is really saddening. It’s really saddening because my oldest is in middle school, which means in a year or so he could have this guy as a teacher. Scary. Thank you parents who have dared to say something, I would have hated to know about this teacher after my kid was in his class.

    Also, it sounds like he doesn’t have a great handle on controlling his class. If they know they can “push his buttons” on this issue in order to orchestrate diverting him of the lessons and wasting class time.

    Seems like if he is that unhappy the district should help him out and let him go and find another job.

  4. Student in his class
    April 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    He is one of the best teachers at the school. He only wants the best for all kids. The board is ruining this county from the inside out. The majority of teachers are active on this subject, but not all are to the extent Mr. White is. If you honestly think this is a problem you should do some research into what is going on in the district that will be impacting your kids in drastic fashion.

    Also to those of you who have already posted and will post about the “left’s” agenda. The agenda is trying to fix this district, because if it keeps heading the way it is, problems will arise and at that point it will be too late.

    Please do your research before you vote this year.

    • Steve
      April 26, 2013 at 4:00 am

      “Student in his class”

      Sure you are. And I’m next in line for the papacy.

      • A Parent
        April 26, 2013 at 11:07 am

        My thoughts exactly, Steve!

        Seems Mr. White has a pattern of this behavior. Three strikes and he’s out?

        “Brian White, a social studies teacher at Thunder Ridge High School, used his taxpayer-funded dcsdk12.org e-mail account to forward e-mails to a co-worker at Thunder Ridge all but accusing the Douglas County Board of Education of corruption in its educational reform efforts. On April 4, 2012, White e-mailed Dave Strickland, a history teacher, with links to stories attacking the credibility and motives of the county board. One of the organizations referenced by White — Taxpayers for Public Education — was created to oppose the reform efforts of the Douglas County school board.”

        http://colorado.mediatrackers.org/2012/09/18/investigation-unearths-inappropriate-emails-sent-from-douglas-county-school-accounts/

        Keep up the good work DC Board of Education.

    • mary
      April 26, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Nice try! But so transparent that anybody buying this line is truly too gullible to be out in public. How many High School Students take the time to read “The Colorado Observer” – unless of course they are told to by Mr. White so they can be his foot soldiers?

  5. Tommy
    April 26, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Sounds like he is not only wasting school resources, but also has started yapping off about the evil school board to pollute the minds of his easily influenced students. What Student in His Class doesn’t realize is that DougCo schools are breaking records since the election of the pro-school choice “regime.”

  6. Chalk Face
    April 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Teaching is a political act. Get over yourselves.

  7. April 29, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Students have the right to a free and apprpriate education. Politics ARE something they need to know about. This teacher did something taboo, yet did the right thing at the wrong time using the wrong resources.

  8. ljohnson
    April 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    This issue needs to be raised to Channel 9 for an investigative followup. Lets get more data so the school will be forced to take some action. If it is getting rid of a teacher, then do it and serve notice to the other teachers who are doing the same as White.

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