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Florida High School Teacher Activist or Educator ?

In early December, Somerby spotted Harvey's letter to the editor in the Naples Daily News announcing the Dec. 9 antiwar protest. He called the local Vietnam veterans group headed by Petersen. A few days later, 150 people showed up to protest against Harvey and about 25 other antiwar demonstrators at a major intersection along the Tamiami Trail.
Education or Activism?
No one seemed to notice Ian Michael Harvey's political views until he was challenged at an antiwar demonstration. That's when the challengers found out he was a high school teacher.

By THOMAS C. TOBIN
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 20, 2002

NAPLES -- On this, the people of Collier County can agree: Ian Michael Harvey was a high school teacher with spiked hair, two silver earrings and strong feelings against the U.S. war on terrorism.

In his free time he organized antiwar protests. In class he introduced students to the "radical left." And in a county that elected George W. Bush by a 2-1 margin, he challenged the wisdom of the new president's post-Sept. 11 proclamation: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists."

Nobody really noticed until December, when a group of veterans showed up to challenge Harvey at an antiwar demonstration and were surprised to discover he was a teacher.

"That's when it hit the fan," said Richard A. Somerby, a retired IBM executive and a Korean War era veteran whose lobbying led to a school district investigation.

The debate that ensued has pushed Harvey into the spotlight, brought him a demotion and prodded this booming mini-metropolis in southwest Florida to examine its notions of patriotism and freedom of speech.

Did Harvey, who joined the district in 1990, play the demagogue, spewing only his leftist views in the classroom at Lely High School? Did he cajole and belittle adolescents who dared disagree with him?

Or did he offer alternative views for students to consider in a spirit of academic exploration?

An investigator for the school district alleged that Harvey filled his classes with "rigid ideological activism" and thereby disrupted "the efficient operation of the school."

He said the veteran teacher's "contempt for the political, social and economic system has not been conducive to the nurturing of a democratic citizenship."

Harvey and many of his students say the investigator misportrayed his teaching style and interviewed only 15 of his 172 students. But others say they believe the findings and want to see Harvey fired.

"He does not have the right to take a captive audience within the county school system and use that platform to espouse his antiwar views," said Bob Petersen, immediate past president of the Collier County chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, which opposed Harvey at a Dec. 9 rally then lobbied school officials to look into his teaching practices.

"I think the school system totally played into the hands of a right wing, fanatical group who challenged them, caught them off guard," countered John Dwyer, a fellow teacher of Harvey's at Lely High who has joined him at antiwar protests. "They are highly offended by anybody that's not in total support of putting stickers and flags on their car."

Among Harvey's other supporters is Michael Moore, the populist documentary filmmaker and author of the best-selling new book, Stupid White Men. Moore's Web site lists Harvey's story as a "Profile in Courage."

School officials have concluded that Harvey broke rules and violated Florida's code of ethics for teachers. He was suspended for three days without pay, though his $44,808 salary remained intact. The action triggered an investigation this month by the state Department of Education, which could revoke Harvey's teaching license.

Meanwhile, Harvey, 46, has been banished to Immokalee, a haggard farm community on the edge of the Everglades where immigrant workers ply the dusty streets on bicycles and old cars. His new job, 40 miles from his old one, is to teach English to Spanish-speaking adults.

But his story begins a world away, in Naples, a prosperous city on the west side of Collier County with sleek cars that drive on six-lane boulevards that lead to big new homes.

That's where Ian Harvey used to teach in relative anonymity.

Now, he says, "I can feel their icy stares in the grocery store."


* * *
Ian Harvey seems offended by the question.

Is he a liberal?

"Somebody further to the left than a liberal," he answers, preferring "progressive," "radical," even "anarchist."

A British citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1966, his 1995 Nissan is plastered with bumper stickers like "Stop the Bombing" and "Peace is Patriotic."

Before Sept. 11, he says, he taught his mass media classes the same way as always, encouraging students to question and think.

When NATO flew bombing raids over Kosovo in 1999, he asked them to consider whether the bombs had caused more deaths than Serb forces. He read them materials that questioned media reports about mass graves and ethnic cleansings.

"Nobody even noticed," Harvey said of administrators and parents. "Not a peep."

Amanda Woodward, a 16-year-old junior at Lely High, remembers a discussion about censorship when Harvey posited a conservative view: "He was like, 'Well, would you want your 3-year-old listening to F this and F that?"'

He asked them to discuss what they'd seen on TV news, told them to read newspaper editorials and letters to the editor.

"He always said, 'Don't believe me. Find out for yourself,' " said Woodward, who collected 278 student signatures on a pro-Harvey petition. "He didn't give his side on it. He'd just throw out questions."

In the days following Sept. 11, teachers everywhere found ways to work the tragedy into their classes. For Harvey, it fit neatly into a segment he had planned on propaganda.

As the nation moved toward war in Afghanistan, he asked his students to consider the notion that propaganda was not just a foreign creation. It occurred in the United States too.

In all the coverage "you got no sense that anybody in Afghanistan could possibly be killed," he said. Relief agencies were warning that millions would starve because of the U.S. bombing campaign. "But there was not a breath of it . . . anywhere in the mainstream media," he said. "So I started bringing in articles that were discussing it."

The idea, he said, was to bring many viewpoints into the classroom. "Then somewhere in between maybe therein lies the truth."

Sixty percent of the grade in his mass media class was for class participation, Harvey said. "All you have to do in there is speak, speak. Just speak."

Peter DeBaun, the school district's internal investigator, saw it differently.

While Harvey claimed to play the devil's advocate, "the record shows that his ideological viewpoints, political and economic, were the real starting points for any discussion," he concluded.

He took pictures of pro-labor and anticapitalist posters in Harvey's classroom. He complained there were no posters or class materials providing a "counterbalance." He noted that Florida's ethics code for teachers says that teachers must value "the pursuit of truth" and "the nurturing of democratic citizenship."

The First Amendment, DeBaun argued, "does not give an employee carte blanche to do and express whatever he wants in a public school environment."

According to his report, Harvey intimidated students who disagreed with his views and once ignored a female student who asked him to tone down his antiwar talk because her boyfriend was in the military.

He noted that 67 percent of Harvey's students in the term following Sept. 11 either failed or received a D.

According to Harvey, DeBaun ignored class materials that offered both sides of issues. Harvey also denied dismissing the female student's concerns about her boyfriend. Most of his students got poor grades last semester because they didn't participate or failed to hand in the required journal, he said.

Harvey also dismisses as "patently false" DeBaun's finding that the teacher turned his English classes into left-leaning discussions of current events.

DeBaun said the criticisms had nothing to do with Harvey's monthly antiwar protests off campus. But Harvey notes that his troubles began with the first protest on Dec. 9.

"Lo and behold a week later I was under formal investigation."


* * *
The seeds of the anti-Harvey movement can be traced to the comfortable Naples home of Richard Somerby, the Korean War veteran.

He digs out his "Ian Harvey file," a folder filled with news clippings, printouts of leftist Web sites and a roster of allies who show up to counter Harvey at antiwar demonstrations.

"It comes up everywhere I go," said Somerby, a fit 71-year-old with tiny American flags on his belt.

In early December, Somerby spotted Harvey's letter to the editor in the Naples Daily News announcing the Dec. 9 antiwar protest. He called the local Vietnam veterans group headed by Petersen. A few days later, 150 people showed up to protest against Harvey and about 25 other antiwar demonstrators at a major intersection along the Tamiami Trail.

Now, the newly formed alliance of anti-Harvey "patriots" teasingly refers to Somerby as their Paul Revere.

"I do not like what he says at all," Somerby said of Harvey. "I think he's a danger to our country, but I also fought in a war so he could say it."

Saying it in a classroom would be altogether different.

What got the veterans' attention at the Dec. 9 protest were Harvey's students, some of whom stood with him and told reporters he always talked about the war in class.

Presenting all sides of an issue in the classroom is "a hell of a good idea," Somerby said. But after watching the teacher at rallies and studying the issues Harvey holds dear, he concludes that Harvey is too committed an activist to have restrained himself in front of students. He thinks DeBaun's report is accurate and plans to lobby for similar action against Harvey's wife, Cynthia Odierna-Harvey, who also is a local teacher and antiwar protester.

He is critical of the school district for not taking more decisive action. If the report is correct, Harvey should be fired, Somerby said. "If it's wrong, they've done this man a terrible disservice. . . . You can't be in the middle on this."

Somerby, who moved to Florida in October, has never been active in causes. But the twin storms of Sept. 11 and Ian Harvey have stirred him to action.

As a busy young father of five in the 1960s, he said he regrets not being more active in support of the Vietnam War. He says a "silent majority" stayed quiet too long. "I thought we're not going to let that happen again."

The Harvey episode also has brought pangs of regret on the left. Dwyer, Harvey's fellow teacher at Lely, said he once ran into trouble 22 years ago as a young Collier County teacher.

He hung an antiapartheid calendar in his classroom, along with posters opposing capital punishment and supporting abortion rights, plus an ad that poked fun at the U.S. Navy.

When members of a visiting business group saw the display one day, the principal ordered him to take it down. Dwyer resisted. But as a father of four, he backed down when the school threatened to fire him.

"I've kicked myself since," he said. "I should have fought it."

It is why he stands up two decades later for Ian Harvey, a man he counts as a colleague but not a friend -- a man with whom he disagrees on some issues.

On this issue, he says, his colleague is right.

When a teacher like Ian Harvey tries to facilitate discussion, he said, "It's sometimes necessary for him to say things which, taken out of context, might be easily skewed."

homepage: homepage: http://www.sptimes.com/2002/05/20/State/Education_or_Activism.shtml

Amazing! 22.May.2002 10:49

anon

It is amazing! and pResident Bush was just in Florida calling out to Castro to "count their vote" "must give opposition candidates the freedom to organize, assemble and speak" But I guess that only applies to Cuba and not Florida.


we are everywhere! 22.May.2002 11:40

peace rebel girl

I wonder how many more school system educators are acting in this sort of responisble manner re the bush administration's approach towards 9.11?

I do not consider it a question of 'educator or activist. 'Indeed it is the job of an educator to shine light on truth versus teaching a rote tired old white man's story from dusty, mildew history books.

Hooray for Harvey! Stand up and Speak out Harvey's everywhere!

Is Florida Zimbabwe? 22.May.2002 22:29

Varro

Bush calls for full and fair elections in Cuba. I guess he has more control over Fidel Castro than his own brother.

Two years ago, Florida State Police troopers routinely stopped black voters in the northern part of the state on Election Day. Those stoppages were called "safety checks." The only thing being safeguarded was the Bush dynasty.

Having lived in Miami for nearly four years, I'd say that it's a toss-up as to whether Cuba or South Florida has a freer political system. You end up a pariah if you oppose either the Cuban Communist Party or the Cuban-American National Foundation and their pet politicians.

SEE IAN HARVEY SPEAK AT NATIONAL RALLY! 23.May.2002 07:48

MEDIA@MACDILLPEACERALLY.ORG MEDIA@MACDILLPEACERALLY.ORG

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Protest Demands "Shut It Down; Stop the War Machine!"  in Memorial Day Weekend Rally for Peace at the Gates of MacDill AFB, U.S. Central Command

What: Peace Rally and Non-Violent Civil Disobedience
When: Saturday, May 26th, 12:00pm
Where: MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida
Media Contacts: Katy Robinson (954) 723-0877 or Sandy Thompson (727) 698-3092 or email  media@macdillpeacerally.org

On Saturday, May 26th, 2002, the Florida Alliance for Peace and Social Justice will hold a Peace Rally beginning at 12pm at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. MacDill is the Central Command Headquarters for U.S. military operations throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. The protest will include non-violent civil disobedience designed to disrupt the war effort.

Rally organizers are calling for an immediate end to U.S. military aggression throughout the wor
ld. They denounce attacks on civil liberties, charging that recent anti-democratic legislative actions are designed to prevent dissent and political opposition to U.S. foreign and domestic policies.

The MacDill AFB action takes place in conjunction with others throughout the world that will denounce American war fervor on Memorial Day Weekend. Protesters in California will go to the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, May 25th (see www.takeittothebridge.org < http://www.takeittothebridge.org> ), while American citizens living in Paris, France will hold an anti-war rally on Sunday, May 26th.

The Memorial Day Weekend Peace Rally follows on the Florida Alliance's first MacDill protest in January, which included the participation of over 500 people from throughout the state, according to local news reports. Organizers expect hundreds more at May's rally. The Florida Alliance for Peace and Social Justice is distinguished in its
 composition for its inclusion of a diverse representation of black community leaders, Native American activists, religious and peace activists, students and seniors. Speakers at the Tampa rally will include Pam Africa of the international campaign to free Mumia Abu Jamal, Vernon Bellecourt of the American Indian Movement, Dorothy Lewis of the National Organization of Blacks for Reparations in America and Omali Yeshitela of the Uhuru Movement.

"The current U.S. war is an aggression that violates every principle of international law and mutual respect among countries and peoples", says Helen Hooley, Quaker and peace activist. "We are calling on all freedom and peace loving people from throughout the U.S. to join us in demanding peace and social justice for all."

According to Phil Champon of the Broward County Anti-War Coalition, "Bush's recent threat to use nuclear weapons against the people of the Middle East and Asia imposes nuclear terr
or on the world. We demand that Bush adhere to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and honor his promise to drastically reduce existing nuclear warheads."

"The Patriot Act threatens the very foundation of American democracy", warns Attorney Mark Kamleiter, member of the ACLU and the Green Party. "We must stand up now against this attack on our civil liberties and constitutional protections that are being dismantled under the guise of fighting terrorism."

"The African community in the U.S. and around the world adamantly opposes George W. Bush's war on the struggling and oppressed peoples of the world," declared Omali Yeshitela, leader of the Uhuru Movement. "He took the presidency by denying African people our right to vote and does not represent us. We stand with the people of Palestine, the Philippines, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the indigenous peoples of North America in our resistance to
 U.S. terror, oppression and exploitation."

Endorsers and participants in the May 26th Peace Rally at MacDill AFB include Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Umbrella for Justice (Palm Beach County), Reality News Network, Broward Anti-War Coalition, Student/Farmworkers Alliance, Alaska Action Center, American Indian Movement (Florida), Campus Greens at USF, Citizens United for Shared Prosperity (St. Petersburg, FL), Collier Anti-War Coalition, Community Coalition Against War and Terrorism (Gainesville), Food Not Bombs (Tampa, FL), Green Party of Pinellas County, Green Party of Dallas County, International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, Pax Christi (Naples, FL), Peace 1st of North Carolina, Peace Action Group, Queers for Racial & Economic Justice, Sarasota County Green Party, Students for International Peace and Justice, Inc., The Florida Left List, Transitions Church & Support Group, Tampa Bay Area Coalition for Peace and Social Justice
, Why War?, and members of the Quakers, Women in Black, Soulforce and the National Coalition Building Institute.

Participants will convene at Gadsden Park in Tampa and march to the gates of MacDill AFB on Dale Mabry Ave. For more information, call (727) 826-6960, email  info@macdillpeacerally.org or visit www.macdillpeacerally.org < http://www.macdillpeacerally.org>



All People's Coalition to Stop US Terror and Occupation
(510) 569-9620 or (408) 885-9785 www.takeittothebridge.org

INTERNATIONAL ANTI-WAR MOBILIZATIONS ON
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!!
SF Organizers Uphold First Amendment; Challenge Park and Golden Gate Bridge Authorities Rules and Regulations with Anti-War Protest

What: Anti-War Mobilizations in San Francisco, CA, Tampa, FL, and Paris, France
When: Saturday, May 25, 2002: Gather at Crissy Field at 11am. March on Golden Gate Bridge at Noon
Media Contact: (415) 348-7797 or (408) 885-9785 or email  allpeepsmedia@yahoo.com

Organizers, expecting hundreds if not thousands to participate in an anti-war demonstration this Saturday, May 25, 2002, claim the rules and regulations of "expressive" and "special" events Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge Authorities violate the First Amendment. This protest, entitled "Take it to the Bridge," is part of an international Memorial Day Weekend Anti War Mobilization. Protests will also occur this weekend at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa, Florida and in Paris, France. On the West Coast, protesters will gather at Crissy Field Airfield with a march on the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday afternoon.
States Bakari Olatunji, All People's Coalition Chair, "The U.S. government has used the extraordinary events of September 11th to justify an all-out war on the peoples of the world. As oppressed peoples and freedom-loving peoples here inside the United States, we stand with the people of Palestine, the Philippines, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the indigenous peoples of North America in our resistance to U.S. terror, oppression, and exploitation. We consider the attempts to stifle free speech as part of the assault on civil liberties since 9-11. We call on everyone to come out on Saturday to defend your right to dissent."
In organizing this demonstration, the All People's Coalition is facing a struggle with the Golden Gate Bridge District and the National Park Service over its ability to even have a constitutionally protected demonstration on the bridge and rally in the park.
March organizer Wendy Snyder states, "Right now we are engaged in a fierce battle with the Golden Gate Bridge District and National Park Service's attempts to stifle our right ''to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances' as guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States of America. We have been told that the Golden Gate Bridge is for Marines with assault rifles and U.S. flag wavers only and our message of peace won't be welcome. We have also learned that our right to carry a banner or use a sound system at Crissy field, a nearby public park, to broadcast our message of anti-war will cost $15,000. We are clear: we will not pay $15,000 to exercise our right to oppose war. Free speech is not the property of Crissy Field or Golden Gate Bridge Authorities. It is the peoples' right; not something that can be granted or denied by anyone."
Continues Snyder, "The Bridge District and the National Park Service` are giving us 'permission' to have a walk across the bridge without a political message. They are even preventing us from addressing the crowds at the rally in a way that would ensure the safety of the people. This creates the potential for conflict and the possibility that people will get arrested for having signs."
The coalition is going forward with plans to march and rally stating that free speech is not the property of Crissy Field or Golden Gate Bridge Authorities. It is the peoples' right; not something that can be granted or denied by anyone. In this era where civil liberties are in being taken away every day by the U.S. government, they say, these attacks on our rights, now more than ever, must be challenged. Call (415) 348-7797 or (408) 885-9785 for more information.

Other Memorial Day Actions:
On Saturday, May 26th, 2002, the Florida Alliance for Peace and Social Justice will hold a Peace Rally at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. MacDill is the Central Command Headquarters for U.S. military operations throughout Central Asia, the Middle East and much of Africa. www.macdillpeacerally.org
A collective of social activist groups in Paris, France is also organizing a march on May 26th to
coincide with George W. Bush's visit to France to try and win support for his anti-terrorism measures and
his war on Iraq. www.may26.org