By John Dundon
Copiague Public Schools’ Board of Education and district administrators got an earful from residents voicing both support and concern over two teachers’ pledge of allegiance protest on President Donald Trump’s inauguration day.
The board room at Copiague Middle School was filled to capacity Monday night with residents spilling out into the hallway. Addressing the large crowd, the district announced for the first time publicly that the two long-time social studies teachers would not be fired for their protest, which sources have said involved them taking a knee during the pledge of allegiance on Jan. 20. District officials, however, declined to elaborate further, citing the teachers’ protections of privacy.
“I’d like you to know that the board and the administration knows how good teachers the two of them are,” Board of Education President Brian Sales said after residents raised the issue of the educators’ job security. “I’m not quite sure where some of this is coming from, but I can tell you that no one’s getting fired over this.”
The district last put out a statement saying that they were still “considering repercussions” for the protest.
Town residents who support the teachers’ right to protest were most vocal in the meeting. Many rejected the language used in the two statements released by the district, citing their negative tones that could have smeared the teachers’ reputations.
“The two faculty members that protested, using their freedom of expression, those two people are the most passionate people about their job, and how they do it speaks volumes,” said Copiague’s class of 2017 salutatorian Mikayla Angel. “They are more than teachers, and they take their job for more than just a job. It’s their life…The statement that you (the board) put out, while we understand you have to address it, does not reflect that.”
Angel was one of many current and former Copiague High School students to speak favorably of the two teachers. Both teachers have taught Copiague’s advanced placement government and economics classes for several years.
“We learn so much in history about people fighting for what we think is right. That’s what these two did, showing us by example,” said one resident and former Copiague student. “These are the types of leaders you want in the classroom.”
There were also parents in attendance who respected the teachers’ right to protest, but preferred that they conduct it in a manner that didn’t disrespect the flag. In Facebook groups, residents spoke of the many current or former members of military that live in the district.
“We all respect the right to protest, but do so in a manner that doesn’t disrespect our flag,” said longtime Copiague resident Carlo Giarraffa. “As kids, we’re taught to respect the flag; that’s how it’s always been.”
While district Superintendent Kathleen Bannon declined to comment further on the matter, repercussions of one form or another remain a possibility. The school district declined to give details about what those penalties could be, again citing the teachers’ right to privacy on personal issues.