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Colorado teacher suspended for Bush comments

By The Associated Press,
First Amendment Center Online staff

AURORA, Colo. — About 150 high school students walked out of class to protest a decision to put a teacher on leave while they investigate remarks he made about President Bush in class, including some that compared Bush to Adolf Hitler.

The protest came yesterday as administrators began investigating whether Overland High School teacher Jay Bennish violated a policy requiring balancing viewpoints in the classroom, Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Tustin Amole said.

"It was peaceful. The students yelled, but there was no fighting," Amole said. "Most of them did return to class."

Sophomore Sean Allen recorded about 20 minutes of Bennish's class during a Feb. 1 discussion about Bush's State of the Union speech and gave the recording to his father, who complained to the principal, Amole said. Allen then went public with his tape, which aired on KHOW-AM radio in Denver.

"After listening to the tape, it's evident the comments in the class were inappropriate. There were not adequate opportunities for opposing points of view," Amole said.

ABC News' Web site reported that on Allen's tape, Bennish "is heard saying there were similarities between remarks Bush made in his State of the Union address and 'things that Adolf Hitler used to say.'

Allen said he had been disturbed by "political rants" he heard in Bennish's class, ABC News reported.

"So these kids are going to have notes on why George Bush is related to Hitler and why the state of Israel was founded on violence and terrorism," Allen told the KHOW talk-radio audience on March 1. "These kids are going to have notes on this and accept that as fact."

ABC News said Bennish claimed on the tape to quote part of Bush's State of the Union address: "It is our duty as Americans to use the military to go out in the world and make the world like us." Bennish continues: "Sounds a lot like what Adolph Hilter used to say."

However, the quote was not found in a search of the text of Bush’s speech.

A telephone number listed for Bennish, who has been teaching social studies and American history at Overland since 2000, had been disconnected.

Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, which represents about 37,000 union teachers, said it would not represent Bennish because he is not a member, but said that Bennish had hired an attorney.

Fox News reported that Bennish would file a federal lawsuit against the school district today.


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