A teacher from a Staten Island, New York school has been disciplined after giving her students a vocabulary assignment that contained an anti-Trump question.
Adria Zawatsky, a veteran sixth-grade English teacher at Paulo Intermediate School (I.S. 75) received a letter of reprimand following a meeting with the school’s principal, Kenneth Zapata.
Zawatsky, who earns a six-figure annual salary, was disciplined after parent Vincent Ungro of Annadale reported to the Staten Island Advance that his 11-year-old daughter brought home a vocabulary assignment with the following fill-in-the-blank statements:
“President Trump speaks in a very superior and _________ manner insulting many people. He needs to be more __________ so that the American people respect and admire him.”
The choices students were given to respond to the statements were the words, “haughty” and “humble.”
A second statement which read, “Barack Obama set a _________ when he became the first African American president,” was supposed to be completed with the word “precedent.”
Ungro instructed his daughter not to complete the three statements regarding Trump and Obama. He added his own hand-written note to the teacher on the assignment that read, “Please keep your political views to yourself and do not try to influence my daughter.”
Zawatsky reportedly deducted 15 points from Ungro’s daughter’s grade for the missing words and added her own note:
Firstly, I do not believe I was expressing a political view at all on my vocabulary sheet. My reference to President Trump was about his personality traits rather than his ability as a president.
The media is nonstop on very similar references. This is considered freedom of speech and I feel I have the same right as they do.
“We have clear standards and regulations in place to ensure school staff maintain neutrality with respect to their political beliefs while in school,” said education department spokesman Michael Aciman.
Ungro said the teacher “should have known better” to avoid political references and should have at least apologized when the issue was raised with her.
“First, I don’t think that putting your personal feelings about politics into a sixth grader’s homework is proper,” Ungro said. “There were at least a thousand sentences that she could have used besides disparaging our president.”
The parent added that his daughter learned a valuable lesson from the experience.
“That she should stay strong with her beliefs even if it’s not the beliefs of her peers,” he continued. “That you don’t have to block traffic, wear silly costumes or destroy other people’s property to be heard. Through patience, persistence and the power of the pen, you can accomplish many things.”