Copiague Teachers May Face Repercussions for Trump Inauguration Day Protest

Copiague High School
Copiague High School

By John Dundon

The Copiague School District completed its investigation into two teachers who protested at the high school last week before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, but it hasn’t decided whether they deserve any retribution, school administrators said.

The issue involves two social studies teachers who knelt silently during the Pledge of Allegiance in a first period class in Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School on Jan. 20, sources have told the Press. The school district announced over the weekend that it would conduct an internal investigation into the “personal protest.” In in a statement released Tuesday the district said that the investigation was completed and that the teachers said they were sorry.

“Each of the staff members involved has since apologized to the Board of Education and the District Administration for their behavior, and for the disruption that they have caused to the educational environment,” the district said. “They have asked that those statements of remorse be conveyed to the students, staff and Copiague community. While the District believes that all members of the school community must be held accountable for their actions when they fail to comply with expected standards of behavior, we will take into account these genuine expressions of remorse and contrition as we consider the repercussions for this behavior.”

When asked for comment, the district declined to speak. The teachers’ union also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“We intend to bring the matter to a close as soon as possible,” the administration said in its statement. It also reiterated that it takes the matter seriously but that it can’t discuss details of personnel issues.

Phone calls from concerned community members sparked the investigation after students told their parents what the teachers had done during the Pledge. A spokesperson for The Center for Constitutional Rights told the Press that the teachers were protected by the First Amendment and that they shouldn’t be punished for their actions since a silent form of protest by its nature can’t disrupt a classroom.

Copiague residents are still rallying for a strong turnout at the next board of education meeting. Some have indicated it’s a way to make their displeasure known, while others plan to show support for the two long-time teachers.

The protest and the district’s response were expected to be among the topics of discussion at a Copiague school board meeting scheduled for Jan. 23, but that meeting was rescheduled due to a nor’easter that hit Long Island. The meeting was rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, January 30 at Copiague Middle School.