Opinion: Tell me this teacher didn't really get canned for a tweet supporting Trump

by Peter Heck · Jul 22nd, 2020 5:15 pm
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Last Updated Jul 24th, 2020 at 1:07 am

I just keep telling myself, "there's got to be more to this story." Yet admittedly, to this point I have been completely unable to find it.

Justin Kucera, a popular social studies teacher and varsity baseball coach at Walled Lake Western high school just outside Detroit, Michigan has been dismissed by the school. According to multiple news reports, his crime appears to stem from this tweet, made from his personal account on the evening of July 6th (well outside school hours, and during a summer month):

Not long after posting that sentiment, Kucera retweeted President Trump's call to reopen public schools in the fall and responded to the barrage of criticism coming his way by concluding,

Apparently, the teacher's public support of Trump and assessment that "liberals suck," rubbed school officials the wrong way. According to Kucera, he was called into a meeting with his principal, Ali Hamka, and district superintendent, Kenneth Gutman, where ultimately he was presented with two options: resign or be fired.

Like I said, there's got to be more to this story.

If we assume Kucera is telling the truth, this is all beyond bizarre. Even if the entire administration loathed President Trump, it's doubtful that they would consider a statement of fact – that Donald Trump is our president – to be actionable. And even though the "x-ing" of blue hats with a (playful?) taunt not to clap back at him, as well as his opinion of American liberalism might be seen as petulant, it would hardly seem to rise to the level of professional termination.

The plot thickened the day after Kucera's tweets, when Superintendent Gutman offered one of his own:

Was this aimed (at least in part) at Kucera? There's evidence that suggests it could have been a response to allegations leveled against a different teacher in the district, but given the timing as well as Kucera's subsequent dismissal, there's more than circumstantial suspicion that Gutman was sub-tweeting the now-terminated baseball coach.

But it's curious if Walled Lake administration views Kucera's remarks as dividing "staff, students, citizens," that it wouldn't also apply that same standard to other teachers within their corporation.

For instance, was it dividing the community when Keith Elementary School kindergarten teacher Nicole Estes called President Trump a "sociopath" on Facebook? Or was it dividing the citizens of the district when Walled Lake Northern high school English teacher Jeremy Augenstine retweeted taunts that Senator Ted Cruz lacked "balls," and made very clear his own choice for president?

Again, just so we're clear, I think a teacher is more than entitled to use their personal social media platforms however they see fit. The question here is one of double standards. Surely a school district would know you can't terminate a publicly outed Trump-supporting social studies teacher while abiding publicly outed Trump-despising kindergarten and English teachers. Right? There's something not adding up in all this.

I sent an email to multiple administrators within the Walled Lake district asking if that was the case, and received the corporation's lawyer-approved generic response from Principal Hamka:

"Thank you for your inquiry. Accurate information is essential. Please know that no disciplinary action was taken as a result of any support of President Trump and we are unable to comment on specific staff discipline /personnel matters."

Is this true? If so, then Justin Kucera is being blatantly dishonest.

Or is this legalese, intentionally designed to play word games, deflecting from an embarrassing reality? If so, expect Kucera to lawyer up and this all to get unnecessarily ugly.

As all of it plays out in the weeks to come, we already know at least one thing – the culture of hypersensitive, grievance-mongering, political polarization extends well beyond D.C. And that isn't good for any of us.

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