Orange County Schools officials expect a crowd at Monday night’s school board meeting with questions and concerns about whether an English teacher inappropriately injected politics into the classroom.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the district’s Central Office Boardroom at 200 E. King St. in Hillsborough.
Conservative blogger A.P. Dillon first broke the story on LadyLiberty1885.com on Sept. 21, including what she says is a recording provided by a student in Cedar Ridge High School teacher Amanda Harder’s classroom.
Students alleged Harder had taught multiple lessons of a similar nature, Dillon says in the blog post, including asking them to compare speeches by Adolf Hitler with those made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The teacher in the recording refers to Trump as a “master of pathos,” who manipulates his audience through their fears. Her comments are part of a lesson on three ways to persuade an audience, she says, noting that an argument using pathos appeals to the emotions.
“He is poking the fires under particular niches of people in this country. People who are anti-Mexican, people who are anti-Muslim, people who are anti-woman,” the teacher says in the recording. “Basically, the only people who seem to be safe from this guy are white Christian males … am I missing anything? Oh, American — white Christian male Americans.”
The teacher also points out that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee, and liberal news outlets use the technique.
“The only difference is (Clinton) is a little bit more subtle about it. (Trump) just doesn’t seem to care who he offends,” she says.
On her blog, Dillon said after she reached out to school officials, her sources told her Harder started collecting students’ cell phones at the beginning of class.
Orange County Schools spokesman Seth Stephens said he first learned about the classroom recording and alleged Hitler-Trump comparisons when Dillon contacted him.
While he can’t comment on personnel matters, Stephens said the district will consider whether Harder crossed a line in the classroom or the material was relevant to the subject at hand.
“We have a policy that says we realize there’s some political materials that could be used in a class, but it’s for instructional purposes only,” he said. “In no way should a teacher use the classroom to promote or demean any particular personal or political viewpoint. There’s no room for it in the classroom.”
The district will provide more information as it becomes available, he said.
“I think certainly we’re in a political season right now, to say the least, so people’s ears are attuned to that sort of thing, and I think rightly so,” Stephens said. “We should always be concerned about what’s going on in our classrooms, and when you add in the mix of all the other things that are going on, this provides another opportunity for people to take an even closer look.”
Efforts to reach Cedar Ridge Principal Heather Blackmon and Harder for comment were unsuccessful Monday afternoon.