About the Event
Across the country, educators face extreme backlash for teaching the truth and creating inclusive classrooms. As of June 2022, the Washington Post identified at least 160 educators who lost their jobs or resigned because they taught about race or LGBTQ+ issues — and there are undoubtedly scores more who have been pushed out of the classroom that have gone unreported. Mainstream media often misses crucial aspects of the larger story: the historical context that led to this dangerous wave of legislation, the student-led organizing and educator resistance, the parents who defend teachers, and how teachers are forced to find their own legal and financial support in the wake of termination. Hear directly from teachers facing termination and censorship and offer solidarity and support.
Melissa Tempel (she/her) is a National Board Certified public school teacher activist and co-author of the ALA Stonewall Honor book, Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality from Wisconsin. Melissa has over 20 years experience teaching primary grades in bilingual and dual language classrooms in public schools. In April 2023, Melissa was abruptly removed from her position as first-grade dual language teacher after a tweet she made brought national attention to harmful school board policies that impacted students and educators in her school district. She was ultimately terminated and in September 2023 Melissa filed a federal lawsuit against the district.
Matthew Hawn has taught Economics, World History, Contemporary Issues, and Personal Finance while coaching baseball, softball, and football for 16 years in the Sullivan County School System in Tennessee. He also served as the teacher advisor to SCHS PRIDE, the sole LGBTQIA student organization in Sullivan County. On May 5, 2021, the same day that the Tennessee General Assembly passed a contentious bill regarding divisive concepts in education, he was dismissed by Sullivan County Schools. His dismissal arose from his commitment to teaching racial equity and justice lessons in an upper-level contemporary issues class. The catalysts for the dismissal included assigning an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates following the January 6 insurrection and presenting the poem “White Privilege” by the avant-garde poet Kyla Jenee Lacey during the Derek Chauvin trial in April 2021. Matthew became the first tenured public school teacher dismissed for teaching lessons related to racial equity and justice during a nationwide debate on Critical Race Theory.
Amy Donofrio is an award-winning teacher in Duval County Public Schools in Florida. She was removed for declining to take down a Black Lives Matter sign from her classroom at a high school named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee with a student population that’s more than 70 percent Black. Donofrio and her students had previously co-founded EVAC Movement to address the racism they faced as Black youth and had presented at Harvard and the White House. Students’ protests of Donofrio’s removal made national news and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued DCPS on her behalf. One month later, then-Florida Department of Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran, gave a headline-making speech at Hillsdale College bragging he “made sure she was terminated” despite Donofrio still being employed and no opened state investigation. Soon after Donofrio publicly contested his comments, DCPS terminated her and the Florida Department of Education placed her under investigation. Her licensure hearing is set for this fall.
Dr. James Whitfield is an award-winning educator who’s centered on creating safe, nurturing, and equitable learning environments. Over the course of nearly two decades in education he’s served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal at the middle and high school levels. He’s known for disrupting systemic barriers, building positive culture, and driving innovation to build excellent learning environments for all students. Education changed the course of his life and he’s driven by a deep sense of purpose to ensure every student feels seen, heard, valued, and has access to a great school experience.
The panel is moderated by Jesse Hagopian.
Jesse Hagopian has been an educator for over twenty years and taught for over a decade Seattle’s Garfield High School–the site of the historic boycott of the MAP test. Jesse is an editor for the social justice periodical Rethinking Schools, is the co-editor of the books, Black Lives Matter at School, Teaching for Black Lives, Teacher Unions and Social Justice, and is the editor of the book, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing.
Participants will need access to Zoom. Register for the Zoom link and get a discount code for Rethinking Schools magazine.
ASL Interpretation will be available.
The event is free. To make events like this available to more educators and activists, we would greatly appreciate your solidarity donation.