HR Strange But True!
October 08, 2004

We all know that HR is never dull, but sometimes it can get downright strange...

A middle school teacher in South Brunswick, New Jersey says she walked out on her job after being asked to remove a picture of the president from her classroom.

The teacher, Pillai-Diaz, is a volunteer with the Bush campaign and has had a publicity picture of the First Couple hanging in her classroom at the Crossroads Middle School South since the start of the school year, according to the Home News Tribune of New Jersey.

The newspaper reports that the photo became an issue when parents e-mailed an assistant principal, accusing Pillai-Diaz of suppressing free speech because she refused to talk to pupils about why the color photo hung in the room.

"Students said, 'You like George Bush? He's killed people,' " Pillai-Diaz recounted for the Home News Tribune. "As a rule I don't talk about my politics in the classroom."

The assistant principal, Mark Daniels, said he had no problem with the photo, which hung next to posters of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but told her she should answer questions about the photo.

"He wasn't giving me the power to direct conversation in my classroom," Pillai-Diaz said, adding she regarded the picture merely as an image of the current president.

After a "back-to-school night" at which parents challenged Pillai-Diaz to explain the photo, she was called into Daniels' office and told to remove the picture, according to her. "He said, 'If you care about your job, you'll take the picture down,'" she said.

Pillai-Diaz said she next took her case to Principal Jim Warfel, who gave her an upbraiding. "He said, 'You've caused more disruption, hatred and anger than anyone I've ever known,' " she told the Home News Tribune.

Warfel also told her to "get out," which prompted her to visit the local police department, where she convinced police to accompany her back to school because she said she feared for her safety when she went to collect her belongings. Before leaving, she had a two-hour meeting with the superintendent of schools and a representative from the teachers' union, both of whom warned that she would lose any fight over the picture, Pillai-Diaz said.

"They weren't interested in the substance of the issue," she said.

Pillai-Diaz's fate remains unclear. She says she has not resigned, and the superintendent told the Home News Tribune that no one has resigned, been fired, or suspended. He would not discuss the incident any further.

Source: Home News Tribune of New Jersey

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