Despite support by parents and students – both black and white – a Michigan middle school teacher has been placed on “administrative leave” for teaching that in the 1800s and early 1900s some white entertainers performed in blackface.
History teacher Alan Barron of Monroe Middle School, Monroe, Michigan, was forced out of his classroom only weeks before he was set to retire after a 36-year teaching career. The suspension came after an administrator sitting in on the class objected to a video of blackface performers from the turn of the last century.
No black student, no white student, nor any parents ever complained about the topic, but Barron, who is also a Monroe Township Supervisor, was taken out of the classroom pending an investigation by the district.
In fact, not only did one black student find nothing offensive about the topic, but she and her parents came to the support of the teacher saying that he was only relaying factual history.
Adrienne Aaron, whose daughter is in Barron’s class, said the girl, “was more offended that they stopped the video. It had nothing to do with [modern] racism. History is history. We need to educate our kids to see how far we’ve come in America. How is that racism?”
School administrators would not say Barron was “suspended,” only that he is “on leave” pending an investigation.
The school released a statement saying, “Mr. Barron has been on leave for about a week while we look into a reported situation in his classroom. Because this is a personnel matter that is going through the teacher contract required steps, we cannot comment any further.”
Mr. Barron is similarly refusing to comment in public, as are his union, the Michigan Education Association, and his lawyer.
Students are not remaining silent, though, and have launched a campaign in support of the popular, long-serving teacher with posts on social media. Kids have even created t-shirts in support of Barron.
“Mr. Barron is one of the… great teachers we have in Monroe Public Schools,” one parent has said on Facebook. “He has changed many children’s lives over the course of his career. If Mr. Barron felt that he was teaching something that was offensive, he would most definitely not have done it.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.