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Getting Recognized

Thomas B. Murphy, the speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, has received a new award, but he probably won't be hanging it on his wall.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has granted the Democratic legislator with one of its annual "muzzle" awards.

Thomas B. Murphy

The Charlottesville, Va.-based group cited Mr. Murphy for preventing Andy Baumgartner, the 1999 Teacher of the Year for both his home state and the nation, from addressing the Georgia House.

On the day he was being recognized in the state legislature in January of last year, Mr. Baumgartner, an Augusta, Ga., kindergarten teacher, first spoke in the Senate. He used his time to air his concerns about Democratic Gov. Roy E. Barnes' education agenda, criticizing him for naming few educators to a reform panel and for suggesting that teachers' inadequacy was hindering student performance.

"I told them that while I was being recognized, they had vilified all the other teachers in Georgia, and if they wanted true educational reform, they could not do it without the input and cooperation of teachers," Mr. Baumgartner recalled last week.

When it came time for him to be recognized in the House, Mr. Baumgartner was told that time had run out for him to speak.

"[T]he cancellation of such a speaking opportunity solely because the speaker's publicly expressed views displease an officer of the chamber is a clear abridgement of free speech," the center wrote in explaining why it gave Mr. Murphy the award.

Speaker Murphy could not be reached for comment last week, but he was quoted in a Georgia newspaper as saying he was responding to the wishes of House members from Mr. Baumgartner's county, who had requested that the teacher not be permitted to speak in that chamber.

—Linda Jacobson

Vol. 20, Issue 32, Page 20

Published in Print: April 25, 2001, as State Journal

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