Last night four of those LHS students appealed to the Lawrence School Board to renew Tim Latham’s teaching contract for next year. See a video of their comments below.
A search of the Lawrence Journal-World, or a search of all Kansas newspapers on NewsBank, does not show a single newspaper story about Tim Latham at Lawrence High School or his current teaching contract issue and how his students are still trying to help him.
Kansas Liberty published an article, Lawrence teacher says he was fired because of his politics, but only subscribers can read the article. Many without students in Lawrence High School likely know nothing about the story.
There is a hint of the contract renewal issue in the May 11, 2009 school board minutes:
Meredith Richey, member, Kansas 9/12 Project, said it had come to the attention of the group that a teacher within Lawrence Public Schools was given a non-renewal because of a difference in political opinion. She asked the board of education to investigate this and possibly reconsider the non-renewal or check into how teachers are released so this is not a pattern in Lawrence. She said different opinions should be tolerated and she believes this is worth exploring.
An article with some additional details appeared on the Kansas 9-12 project page a few days later.
Before the Lawrence School Board meeting last night a number of Lawrence students and parents met in the parking lot to discuss the meeting.
Some of the students were refining their remarks they planned to make to the school board. They were a bit nervous about speaking, but they knew they had to find the courage to speak their minds about their teacher. In their minds he had done nothing wrong.
I asked the group if they had any idea why the school board might be upset with Tim Latham.
Some of the students mentioned they knew one student had complained thinking Latham had made disparaging remarks about Barack Obama as a candidate for President. But the students were quick to explain that Latham had never been disrespectful of President Obama. Latham had given a series of examples in class about “looking beyond the surface” of candidates, and they thought that one student misunderstood Latham’s intent.
So I pressed again. What else might the school administration be upset with Latham about?
A few thought he might have been in trouble for not giving enough writing assignments. But they were quick to explain that Latham had given other creative and engaging assignments to capture their attention.
In particular, several remembered creating their own political campaigns last fall. I asked, “did you get to decide which side you were on.” All the students said, “of course,” Mr. Latham had never forced any particular views on them. They had very much enjoyed that assignment.
I asked the students to compare Mr. Latham to other history or government teachers at Lawrence, either in the school now, or teachers from other years they knew about. The students explained Latham was the same as other teachers, except he had a passion for the history and the stories he told. One student explained another teacher “liked” history, but didn’t have the passion Latham did.
One student suggested the school district was being hypocritical in its treatment of Latham. The young woman explained that since kindergarten the school district had always encouraged students to “be an individual” and to accept others. The student explained they knew Latham was more conservative than most in Douglas County, yet they were willing to accept him since he was a good teacher and added excitement to learning. In later discussions, two of Latham students said they now wanted to be teachers themselves because of Latham.
The students explained that one energetic classmate had collected over 130 names in a petition she mailed the school board asking for Latham to be retained. But most of the students in the parking lot had not signed the petition and still wanted to.
Latham had been delayed from attending the beginning of the school board meeting, but met with several of the students after they left early. He explained that yesterday he had registered a formal grievance with the superintendent about his treatment, and was optimistic about the outcome. Latham explained that he had good reviews as a teacher for 19 years and in some ways didn’t understand what was happening to him now. Yet, he remained optimistic that the system would work: He did not want to make any official statement or be part of the video while the grievance process was being followed.
The time needed for the grievance process is not clear. Perhaps the liberal Lawrence School Board will find a way to accept a conservative teacher at Lawrence High School. Either the current superintendent and board will resolve the issue in June, or pass it on to the new superintendent and school board in July.
- Online petition to renew Tim Latham’s Contract
- Facebook group: Save Mr.Latham, Lawrence High History Teacher
- Mr. Latham’s school web site
- Kansas High School Teacher Fired for Being Conservative?, Publius’ Forum, June 11, 2009.
- Old Media Ignore Teacher Firing — He’s Conservative Naturally, NewsBusters, June 11, 2009.
- Conservative teacher doesn’t fit in – Fired!, Kansas City Conservative Examiner, June 10, 2009.
- Darla Jaye’s Show Notes for June 8 and June 9, 2009.
- Lawrence teacher says he was fired because of his politics, Kansas Liberty, May 27, 2009.
- Lawrence Public Schools may not be the Discrimination-Free Learning Environment they claim to be, The Kansas 912 Project, May 15, 2009.