A North Carolina teacher who was accused in a letter of having a "lack of testosterone" and being a "wuss" for not wanting to arm teachers got the last laugh by having his seventh-grade students critique the letter.
Justin Parmenter, a language arts teacher at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, argued in an opinion piece in The Charlotte Observer that more counselors and social workers are needed instead of armed teachers following the Valentine Day's mass school shooting in Florida.
A person who said he was a parent of two public school students emailed Parmenter to say that based on the educator's picture, the teacher had "never even saw a barbell, much less lifted one, and most likely gets queasy at the sight of a gun."
"So of course I'm not shocked a guy tried to hide his lack of testosterone his whole life leaned on his brains," the writer added.
In a blog that was posted Thursday in the Washington Post, Parmenter wrote that he realized the letter could be a useful tool in his classroom. After giving his students some context about his op-ed piece, Parmenter asked them to read the email and offer suggestions on how it could be improved.
Parmenter said his students gave advice such as "work to understand opposing points of view," "take a fact-based approach if you want to persuade" and "refrain from name calling. It's often cover for a weak position."
Parmenter, who used to be a gun owner, said he was amazed and inspired by the civil discourse shown by his students. He said it reminded him of how some survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, have become advocates against gun violence.
"I’m inspired by the ability of the Parkland students and my own students to cut through the noise and focus on what’s most important: our need to be courageous and unite in the face of our shared challenges," he wrote.
Parmenter's response to the email has drawn praise from fellow educators. James Ford, a former North Carolina Teacher of the Year, tweeted that the email exposes "the fragile masculinity at the root of so much of this debate."