Candidate for state schools post calls for North teacher to resign

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 25, 2012

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
John Tedesco, a Republican candidate for North Carolina superintendent of public instruction, released a statement Thursday calling for the resignation of North Rowan High School teacher Tanya Dixon-Neely.
Dixon-Neely, who teaches social studies, sociology and psychology, can be heard on a cellphone video that has since gone viral and is posted on YouTube in a heated exchange with student Hunter Rogers. Dixon-Neely can be heard telling the student that people have been arrested for speaking ill of the president.
Rogers, a senior, has been pulled out of the school by his parents and plans to obtain his high school equivalency certificate from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Tedesco, also a member of the Wake County School Board, said teachers should not be allowed to berate students in this nature for any reason.
He goes on to say “the teacher in this case was trying to push her pro-Obama views on her students and then hurled abuse at one of them when he had the courage to challenge her propaganda.”
Tedesco said what should be done about the teacher is a local matter, but suggested Rowan-Salisbury schools officials should “act swiftly to protect their students from classroom indoctrination and abuse.”
He also said the school system’s actions should be direct so other employees are clear that such conduct will not be tolerated.
Tedesco said if something like this happened in Wake County he would certainly call for the resignation or removal of the teacher.
Rowan-Salisbury School System spokeswoman Rita Foil said Thursday there has been no change in Dixon-Neely’s status. The teacher remains suspended with pay while the school system continues its investigation.
“While I agree that a suspension is appropriate while the matter is investigated, I hope that this is not simply a way to keep things quiet during the summer until she is reassigned within the system next fall,” Tedesco said.
The two other candidates for state superintendent both say that call isn’t theirs to make.
“I believe in local control, and I believe that should be up to the board in Rowan County to decide what to do in that situation,” said Richard Alexander, Tedesco’s opponent in the Republican primary runoff.
Alexander said that based on the video, Dixon-Neely was not teaching her students properly and was giving them false information.
He said Rogers seemed to know more than the teacher about his freedom of speech and how it relates to presidential elections.
“I teach in a school, and I would have welcomed that discussion,” Alexander said. “I wouldn’t let it go one-sided in a classroom or have anybody being derogatory, but I think it was a learning and teaching moment that the teacher missed out on.”
June Atkinson, a Democrat and the current Superintendent of Public Instruction, agreed that “we do not want teachers in our classrooms who demonstrate incompetence.”
But Atkinson said she has not seen the video herself and feels it would be irresponsible of her to comment on it. She added that it will be up to the Rowan-Salisbury school board and superintendent to decide how to respond to the teacher’s conduct.
“State law gives the authority to hire, fire and discipline teachers to local superintendents and local boards,” she said. “People running for office should respect our current laws as it relates to the hiring and firing of teachers.”
Reporter Shavonne Potts contributed to this story.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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