Friday, January 21, 2022

Tennessee Educator Fired After Teaching Students About White Privilege

Protesters march against racism in Brooklyn in 2020 / Getty

*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.”

READ MORE: Condoleezza Rice Says Critical Race Theory Disempowers Black Kids and Makes White Kids Feel Guilty (Watch)

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.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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