A Tennessee teacher was fired last school year for teaching his students that white privilege is real, not a theory.
Matthew Hawn, a high school teacher in Sullivan County, Tenn., was accused of being insubordinate and unprofessional for the way he engaged with students about America’s racist past. Hawn reportedly taught a contemporary issues class at Sullivan Central High School for more than a decade. More than 94 percent of students in the district are white. Hawn allegedly violated the teacher code of ethics when he failed to provide students with “varying viewpoints” about the existence of white privilege during lessons on police brutality and white supremacy.
Hawn, who was tenured, was fired amid conservative outrage about critical race theory. In May, the same month he was terminated, the Tennessee legislature passed a law banning CTR from its schools. Educators are now prohibited from teaching students that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive.”
Hawn’s case gained national media attention and local public support. He fought for his job back and decided to appeal the firing, asking for a hearing to determine whether the district acted legally, per the report. In October, he lost the battle, as the appeals court ruled that Hawn was justifiably fired.
“Despite knowing he was to provide varying viewpoints, Mr. Hawn did not provide a viewpoint contrary to the concept of white privilege,” hearing officer Dale Conder said in his decision.
Hawn, who grew up in the county and had been teaching in the district for 16 years, has not yet decided whether to appeal Conder’s ruling.
“Whenever I teach perspectives from African American people, I have to immediately compare and contrast it with a white narrative,” said Hawn, a white self-described “anti-racist”.
If the district’s school board votes to uphold Conder’s decision, Hawn can appeal to the Sullivan County Chancery Court.
“I really thought that I was going to be teaching in Sullivan County. I thought we made a great case,” said Hawn. “I’m just extremely disappointed and defeated.”
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