Tolerant Liberals on High School Faculties
LEWISTON -- The Maine College Republicans express strong support of Lewiston High School senior Brent Bowen, whose First Amendment rights were violated by a member of the school’s faculty during an unfortunate incident there last week.The Marquette Warrior Blog contacted Bowen, and the story, as published, has some minor problems.
The incident occurred last Monday when Bowen, who founded the first Teenage Republican chapter in Maine, was handing out copies of the official Maine College Republican newspaper, The Pachyderm Press, in the school cafeteria: “After handing out the paper at the first lunch, an openly socialist teacher came up and questioned me,” recounted Bowen. “She asked whether I had permission to hand out the paper.” After replying that there was no policy regarding handouts at lunch, the faculty member then told Bowen he had to get permission from school administrators to continue handing the newspaper out. “I didn’t know I needed permission to practice free speech,” Bowen remarked.
After receiving the support of the school’s vice principal to continue handing out The Pachyderm Press, Bowen was confronted by a group of faculty who threatened him with suspension. “It’s actually not the first time I’ve been threatened like that because of my political views,” said Bowen. “Another Lewiston High School faculty member ripped four or five of the newspapers up in frustration after hearing I had permission to distribute them. The papers certainly made quite a splash at Lewiston High,” he concluded.
In the first place, the characterization of the teacher as “openly socialist” comes from hearsay, since Bowen (the source of the story) has never taken a course from this teacher and has not heard her say she is a socialist. It’s also the case that the story of the teacher who ripped up four or five newspapers is hearsay, although Bowen insists that he heard this from multiple (and reliable) sources. Finally, The claim that a “group” of faculty confronted Bowen isn’t precisely true. Actually two additional teachers did indeed confront him separately.
Discrepancies like this led the Lewiston Sun-Journal to minimize the incident, but that can’t mitigate the fact that several left-leaning teachers, hostile to Republicans, tried to stifle a student’s free expression. According to the Sun-Journal:
Both sides say a teacher stopped Bowen and asked if he had permission to distribute the papers. The teacher’s name was not available.And later two other teachers (although not in a “group”) also accosted Bowen about the newspapers.
“I knew that there was no policy, and I said that I didn’t really need permission,” Bowen said.
When the teacher persisted, Bowen got an assistant principal’s approval and returned to the cafeteria with his papers.
Nobody now denies that Bowen did, in fact, have the right to distribute the papers.
Administrators at Lewiston High School have failed to respond to e-mail and phone inquiries.
There will be a meeting Tuesday involving Bowen, the Maine College Republicans (to whom Bowen turned for help) and the school’s administration. Hopefully, the school will endorse an Academic Bill of Rights to protect students’ rights to free thought and free expression.
It’s no longer the case that liberal high school teachers (nor liberal college professors) can be relied on to do that without external coercion.