A Chicago-area high school fired a driver’s ed teacher who gave a student an ultimatum regarding the Pledge of Allegiance: stand, or don’t get in my car. Vince Ziebarth, who was a full-time driving instructor at Eisenhower High School, was upset when Shemar Cooper wouldn’t stand for the Pledge, and told the student how he felt, The Chicago Tribune reported.
There are seven other driving instructors at the school, and students reportedly get to choose which ones to sign up to ride with. After Cooper rode with Ziebarth in February and asked when they would ride again, Ziebarth told him how he felt. “I told him he can make a choice to sit, but as long as you choose to sit, you will not sit in my (drivers ed) vehicle,” Ziebarth said to the Tribune.
Ziebarth, whose grandfather served in World War II and uncle fought in Vietnam, said he explained to Cooper, “I stand to honor the sacrifice and bravery of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It doesn’t mean America is perfect, or that we agree with everything going on.” He didn’t realize there would be any controversy afterwards. “We had an understanding,” he told the Tribune. “He was making a choice, and I was making a choice. His name never appeared on my sign-up sheet again, so I thought it was over.”
Ziebarth said he and Cooper joked with each other over it, with the student continuing to ask him when they would ride together, and Ziebarth saying, “You know the answer.”
But Cooper’s mother, Kelley Porter Turner, didn’t think it was anything to joke about. “He violated my son’s First Amendment rights,” she told the Tribune. Porter Turner complained to school administration, and then Ziebarth got the axe.
Ziebarth, who was not tenured, was rather surprised by the sudden and extreme repercussions. “I was given no options,” he said. “Had the principal told me I had to allow Shemar in my car, I would have.”
Since then, hundreds of people have signed an online petition to save Ziebarth’s job. Cooper has also been the target of harassment from students who liked the now-former teacher.
This wasn’t the first time a teacher at the school had gotten in trouble over their reaction to Cooper’s defiant position regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. Early in the school year, another teacher grabbed Cooper’s arm to pull him out of his seat when he wouldn’t stand up. That teacher was reportedly suspended, but not fired.
[Image via screengrab]