A 13-year-old student recorded his teacher as he tried to convince him to stop supporting President Donald Trump.
The teacher spent nearly 10 minutes trying to get his student to agree the president’s immigration policy is a failure and that Trump is a racist.
It’s the latest in a long string of incidents where teachers bring their political bias into the remote learning environment. Had it not been for the precocious eighth grader, this would not have come to light. But the district claims the teacher didn’t do much wrong.
Connor Seaman assigned his Language Arts class at Kopachuck Middle School in Gig Harbor a simple task: Tell him who your hero is and provide multiple sources to explain your reasoning. The student chose Trump, in part, because of his immigration policy and border wall.
Apparently Seaman had an issue with the assignment and asked the student to stick around after class for a quick chat. What started off as a reasonable — and correct — conversation about proper sourcing quickly devolved.
When the student said he sourced the White House for facts on building a border wall, Seaman explained why this is problematic. But then he launched into a rebuke that attempted to discourage the student from thinking Trump has been successful.
“Like we kinda talked about the wall thing, so, like, I mostly know about this because of my own research,” Seaman explained. “There’s only, like, along the wall that’s been built, has mostly just been replacing old wall that was already there. I mean, it wasn’t really a wall. It was kind of like a fence, you know? But it’s still a barrier. The promise was to make a wall along the border, and only like, 100 miles, I think, is the number out of the 3,000 total miles has actual structures.”
Ironically, Seaman should check his own sources, as there’s been more than 100 miles built. But then Seaman cut to the chase: “Why is it heroic to make a wall to keep out immigrants?”
That’s what this was really about.
It was clear that Seaman was more interested in critiquing the student’s political position. Luckily, the student was recording the entire conversation on his cell phone.
Seaman downplayed illegal immigration, comparing it to jaywalking. Both are technically illegal, but not that big of a deal. The student pushed back, saying it is serious.
“Right. But why is that important though?,” Seaman asked, not hiding the condescending look and near-eyeroll. “So, like, for example, like, let’s say, because jaywalking is illegal, let’s say I were to do a taskforce that cost billions of dollars to stop jaywalking once and for all type thing. Is that, like, you see the kind of point I’m trying to get right here?”
The student said no, so Seaman tried again, though the student looks at the camera for an eyeroll.
“Um, what would be a bigger accomplishment: lowering murder rates or lowering illegal border crossing?,” the teacher asked. “Because, like, that is a more adverse effect on people like, how does it affect you that someone is crossing the border illegally?”
The student says it’s possible for the illegal immigrant to be a terrorist. Seaman was unmoved by that argument — he’s heard it before!
“I don’t know if you know this, but actually immigrants who cross illegally, they perform crimes at a lower rate than U.S. citizens do,” the teacher said.
The student tilts the phone to his face and mouths, “Not true.”
The student is actually more correct than the teacher. While Seaman is generally citing various research, what’s unsaid is that police generally do not ask or record citizenship of suspects. Using Seaman’s comparison, if an illegal immigrant is a serial jaywalker, it’s not reported as an illegal immigrant jaywalking, but just a person jaywalking.
I suppose it was inevitable. Eight minutes into the conversation, Seaman says Trump is a racist.
“So if you’re gonna introduce bullet points, you kind of have to back up with why that’s heroic, because there’s a lot of people who would argue that it’s not heroic and it’s actually… a lot of the rhetoric that has been said has been very racist,” Seaman said.
The student pushes: What has Trump said that’s racist? Seaman cites a 2015 speech where Trump said rapists and murderers are being sent from Mexico into the United States.
“It’s pretty racial language, so a lot of people would argue that it’s actually creating a lot of racist tensions by saying that,” Seaman argues.
It sounded like when he says “a lot of people,” he includes himself.
Seaman then says illegal immigrants are being held in “camps” at the border and families fleeing cartels and war are being separated at the border.
It comes across as if Seaman wants to convince the student to be more permissive of illegal immigration. That’s obviously a point many Democrats have made and it’s worth a discussion, though, perhaps, not one trying to propagandize a 13-year-old.
At that point, the student excused himself. And in fairness to Seaman, after attempting to tell the student his position was wrong, the teacher said the student could continue with the report.
The student’s mom didn’t know what happened until her son explained and showed her the recording. She was understandably upset.
She contacted the superintendent and ended up speaking with the school’s principal, Heidi Fedore. The mom says Fedore admitted the conversation was inappropriate and that Seaman was sorry for the lecture.
The district, through a spokesperson, says they had no problem with the teacher’s conversation with the student.
“The comment that the teacher tried to convince the student he was wrong for supporting President Trump’s immigration policy is not accurate,” spokesperson Aimee Gordon told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “The student and teacher spoke about immigration policy in the context of providing evidence for why President Trump is a hero. The teacher’s intent was to encourage the student to use more than one source (whitehouse.gov) for his assignment.”
There was clear intent to discuss sourcing with the student. However, it strains credulity to argue the teacher wasn’t trying to convince the student he was wrong for his support of Trump. Seaman was condescending through much of the conversation.
The district does concede that “part of their conversation became more political in nature.”
“When speaking with the parents, the principal shared that the teacher should have stuck more closely to the assignment objectives for using multiple sources and not as much on using immigration policy as an example,” Gordon explained.
The student’s mother tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the principal explained to her that filming the conversation was illegal and that they shouldn’t go public with the video.
The spokesperson disputes this recollection somewhat.
“If the party being taped has an expectation of privacy, which in this case the teacher would have had that expectation, it is illegal,” Gordon said. “The principal mentioned to the parents that recording a person without their knowledge is illegal, but did not say anything about not sharing the recording. The principal described the situation as a teachable moment and encouraged the family to speak with their child, as students are taught digital citizenship and that you must ask someone’s permission before recording someone.”
Gordon provided a link to the Washington law to back up her point.
While the spokesperson is right about being a two-party consent state, Seaman would need a reasonable expectation of privacy. Here, none exists. He started the conversation in a public remote classroom. He should reasonably believe someone else — like a parent or guardian — could be listening and recording given the student is at home.
Next, the spokesperson sent a number of excerpts from the student handbook to imply the student broke a rule in recording the conversation. This, too, is a tenuous and bizarre argument. The handbook offers guidance on “personal electronic devices (e.g. laptops, mobile devices and e-readers) while on District property to further the educational and research mission of the District.” (Emphasis mine.)
After I asked for clarification, the spokesperson said they were not implying they’d discipline the student for recording the conversation.
This isn’t the first time I’ve reported on questionable content from the Peninsula School District. It’s not even the first time I’ve called out a Gig Harbor school!
Gig Harbor’s Discovery Elementary was forced to take portions of an online resource library down after the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH reported it was teaching young children how to be progressive and Socialist activists. It also asked students to donate money to left-wing political causes.
I hope this is teachable moment for Seaman and for parents. No, Seaman shouldn’t be fired. But he should know better and I hope he considers his bias in the future. And parents need to be aware this is happening. Use this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about bias and ask questions to get a better view of what’s being taught to them.
Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook.