Commentary: Teacher Codes of Conduct Offer Alternative to Critical Race Theory Bans

The firing of Matthew Hawn, a high school teacher in Sullivan County, Tennessee, recently made national news and seemed to confirm fears that newly-enacted state bans on critical race theory (CRT) would have a chilling effect on teacher speech. Hawn, a 16-year veteran tenured teacher and baseball coach, had assigned students in his contemporary issues class Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay, “The First White President,” and a spoken word poem from Kyla Jenée Lacey called “White Privilege.” One headline declared, “A Tennessee teacher taught a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay and a poem about white privilege. He was fired for it.” A Georgetown professor tweeted, “This really seems extreme and a harbinger of what is to come.”

But contrary to news coverage and social media chatter, Hawn wasn’t fired for violating the state’s newly passed CRT ban. Really, he was dismissed for failing to adhere to the Tennessee “Teacher Code of Ethics,” a seldom-invoked but sensible state requirement for teachers to provide students access to varying points of view on controversial topics. Not only did Hawn fail to follow this code when he assigned the contentious poem and Coates’ essay from The Atlantic, which contains claims such as, “With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness,” he also later asserted that “there is no credible source for a differing point of view.” (Hawn recently denied making such a claim, though he declined to explain why the district attributed this statement to him.)

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Sullivan County School Board Votes 4-2 to Allow Text Equating God and Allah

The Sullivan County Board of Education voted 4-2 Tuesday to adopt a controversial social studies textbook that critics say promotes God and Allah as the same, WJHL said. The adoption for the seventh-grade book doesn’t mandate its use, WJHL said. It only makes it eligible for the district’s purchase. The station quoted…

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Muslims Urged to Pack Sullivan County School Board Meeting to Advocate for Textbook That Says Allah and God Are the Same

One Sullivan County School Board member is opposing the body’s planned adoption tonight of a social studies textbook that says the God of Christianity is the same as Islam’s Allah, while CAIR is calling on Muslims to pack the board room. Jane Thomas told the Kingsport Times-News that the seventh-grade…

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Yet Another Tennessee Law Enforcement Agency, Sullivan County, Blasted for Misusing Seized Property

Tennessee Comptrollers have called out officials in yet another county for doing a lousy job keeping tabs on evidence they seize from other people — this time in Sullivan County. According to Comptrollers, deputies with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office kept this property a lot longer than they should have.…

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Sullivan County Official Stole Nearly $16,000, Audit Says

The former director of the Sullivan County Emergency Communications District stole district funds totaling nearly $17,000, according to an audit Tennessee Comptrollers released this week. This month a Sullivan County Grand Jury indicted that man, Isaac Lowry, on one count of theft over $10,000, according to a press release from…

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The Would-Be ‘State of Franklin’ That Never Officially Existed

The United States Constitution does, of course, contain guidelines as to how a territory may enter the Union as a full-fledged state on an equal footing with all previously-existing states.  The last time that any new states were added to the United States was in the year 1959 when Alaska…

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