Mich. Teacher Sparks Outrage by Refusing to Show Inauguration Speech in Class

By Madeline Will — January 19, 2017 2 min read
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As Donald Trump prepares to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, teachers across the country are deciding how to handle the inauguration in class.

It’s a historic moment that is a ready-made civics lesson. Teachers across the country are even taking their students to Washington to see it firsthand. But given some of Trump’s inflammatory campaign rhetoric, and the polarizing nature of the election, some teachers are unsure what to do this year.

In one example that has stoked internet outrage, a 4th grade teacher in Williamston, Mich., has announced that he will not be showing Trump’s inauguration speech in class, despite showing the inauguration speeches of previous presidents.

“Because I am concerned about my students and your children being exposed to language and behavior that is not in concert with the most conservative social and family values, I have decided to show the inauguration of Donald Trump this Friday, but we will not view Mr. Trump’s inauguration speech,” Matt Meteyer wrote in an email to parents, which was posted on the website of the syndicated radio host Steve Gruber.

Meteyer wrote that he asked Trump’s team for an advance copy of the inauguration speech to preview the content, but he has not heard back.

“I showed the speeches of Presidents Obama and Bush in 2009 and 2005, respectively, but I am anxious about showing Mr. Trump’s inaugural address, given his past inflammatory and degrading comments about minorities, women, and the disabled,” he continued in his letter to parents. “I am also uneasy about Mr. Trump’s casual use of profanity, so I sought an assurance that as their teacher, I would not be exposing children to language that would not appear in G- or PG-rated movies.”

The letter has gone viral, with some people applauding Meteyer’s discretion and others calling the decision censorship and inappropriate in public schools.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the district superintendent wrote a letter to families saying that teachers are expected to be balanced in their instruction and appropriate in their communications with families. The district is not commenting, however, on this specific instance.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that districts across the Atlanta metro area are leaving it up to teachers to decide whether they will play the inauguration in class, but some officials have offered guidance to teachers. For example, don’t share your personal political beliefs. Keep the inauguration grounded in curriculum. Make sure students are respectful to each other.

Teaching Tolerance, an education project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also compiled a guide to teaching the inauguration, with educational resources and activities.

Teachers, how will you address the inauguration in class? Share your plan in the comments.

Image credit: Evan Vucci/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.