D-11 sees legal threat over Confederate lesson 

Battle flag

click to enlarge D-11 and a substitute teacher battle over a Civil War lesson. - PHOTOSBYANDY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • PhotosbyAndy / Shutterstock.com
  • D-11 and a substitute teacher battle over a Civil War lesson.

A substitute teacher in Colorado Springs School District 11 claims that schoolchildren were subjected to a pro-Confederate lesson at the hands of a district employee.

A May 20 letter to D-11 Superintendent Nicholas Gledich from the substitute's attorney, Greg Walta (a legal advisor to the Indy), claims that Joseph Kaplan was wrongfully removed as a substitute teacher for the district after observing a May 11 lesson given by a district employee at Holmes Middle School. The district employee, the letter states, taught kids the rebel battle cry and told them that slaves in the South were treated well and that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with white supremacy.

Kaplan was told to leave school grounds, the letter states, by Assistant Principal Alisa Snelson because he had "taken pictures of the rally," in which, the letter claims, the district employee "picked out several children to carry the Confederate flags and had them charge recklessly around the grounds."

The letter states that Kaplan explained he had taken the photos as evidence to be used in an internal complaint he planned to file, but was told by Snelson that there was nothing wrong with the day's teaching, that the school did the same lesson annually, and that "Principal Robert Utter himself had conducted the program in past years."

After registering a complaint, the letter states, Kaplan was told that he had violated school policy by posting about the incident on Facebook, and that he would be placed on administrative leave and contacted by the administration the next week. At the time of the letter, Walta states, Kaplan had not been contacted.

Among the other complaints about the lesson listed in the letter are claims that the district employee told children: that George Washington was a great general because he was used to giving orders to slaves, that the Civil War was not about slavery, and that blacks fighting for the Confederacy were treated better than blacks fighting for the Union.

Asked about the incident, D-11 spokesperson Devra Ashby said via voicemail that the school uses the same curriculum for the Civil War as many schools across the country.

She said of Kaplan, "He was only in our school for one day. He only saw a snapshot of what was being taught to students over several weeks. So it was a single presentation of an entire Civil War unit that lasts several weeks and he came away with quite a different viewpoint from what has been taught.

"Obviously, we've got to teach American history, and for the purposes of learning about America over 150 years [ago], students were asked to try to understand the context of the times and not view history with a modern-day lens. And so I don't think that this substitute teacher really understood that."

Walta, however, whose letter asked that Gledich contact him within 10 days, appears to be taking the matter quite seriously.

"I will not," he wrote, "waste time in this letter on the obvious problems presented by this case." He adds that if he doesn't hear from the district representative within the allotted time, "I will feel free to initiate legal action without further notice."

Asked whether D-11 had contacted him, Walta said that a lawyer representing the district had touched base with him on June 2 to say she was looking into the matter.

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