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Controversial teacher keeps job

DenverPost.com | March 11 2006

Cherry Creek social studies teacher will not lose his job, after a student went public with a tape recording of controversial comments the teacher had made in class.

Superintendent Monte C. Moses said Jay Bennish will be reinstated to his job at Overland High School, and will be teaching on Monday.

At a news conference this afternoon, Moses said Bennish doesn't deserve to be praised, nor does he deserve to be fired. "Jay Bennish has promise as a teacher, but his practice and deportment need growth and refinement," said Moses.

Bennish gave a brief speech after the district's announcement, saying he was looking to going back to the classroom.

“I'm very excited to continue encouraging students to think critically, to encourage democratic values in our society, to promote social justice just as I have always attempted to do,” he said. “I will continue trying to prove myself as a teacher, be the most effective teacher I can be.”

David Lane, Bennish's attorney, said Bennish was not suspended and would not lose any pay, though neither he nor the superintendent would discuss whether Bennish was reprimanded. The superintendent did acknowledge that some discipline had occurred, but he would not be specific.

Lane said Bennish planned to be more sensitive to student and parent concerns.

“I think Jay has learned from this experience that when you're dealing with high school students, perhaps you need to be a little bit more sensitive to those kinds of concerns as well,” he said.

“I applaud the Cherry Creek School District for understanding the First Amendment implications involved in this whole issue, for understanding the concept of academic freedom and for being sensitive to those issues of constitutional magnitude,” Lane said.

Lane had threated to sue the school district if Bennish was fired.

Bennish was placed

on paid administrative leave last week while officials probed allegations that he was biased after sophomore Sean Allen went public with a recording he made of a Feb. 1 geography lecture.
Bennish had cited "eerie similarities" between Bush's State of the Union address and "things that Adolf Hitler used to say."

Today in Washington, President Bush was asked about the Bennish controversy.

"I think people should be allowed to criticize me all they want. And they do," Bush said.

Governor Bill Owens released a statement this afternoon about the board's decision.

“My first thought is to thank Sean Allen for standing up and voicing his concern over a teacher who was using his classroom as a political soapbox. Second, I hope that Mr. Bennish will learn something from this and actually work to balance and improve his classroom presentation,” said Owens, in the statement.


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