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Cop breaks into school at 1:30am to photograph Un-American classroom

just one of the articles ... the history professor is also interviewed today on DemocracyNow.Org

Cop-teacher controversy crosses the country
May 8, 2003

By David Delcore


BARRE - "Suspend" the cop, "thank" the teacher. "Fire" the teacher, "God bless" the cop.

Opinions are like birthdays - everybody's got one - and thanks to Rush Limbaugh, folks from all over the country are sharing their views when it comes to Tom Treece and John Mott.

Treece is the controversial history teacher who has been accused by some of pushing his personal political views on students at Spaulding High School.

Mott is the Barre Town police officer who persuaded a night custodian to unlock the door to Treece's room at 1:30 a.m. on April 9 so he could photograph "offensive" student projects that he believes prove Treece gives his students a biased perspective.

Limbaugh spent more than an hour discussing the story on his nationally syndicated radio program Tuesday, triggering a flurry of e-mails from around the country. The Time Argus received several of those e-mails. Others were aimed Barre Town, and some were directed to the Barre Supervisory Union.

Barre Town Manager Carl Rogers said his office was inundated with e-mails involving Mott's actions at Spaulding while in uniform, on duty and out of his jurisdiction last month.

Some, Rogers said, applauded the officer, others maintained he should be disciplined.

"It was really a mixed bag," he said, adding: "They (the e-mails) came from all over."

Rogers credits Limbaugh for the coast-to-coast response to an issue he said was handled "weeks ago."

"It was immediately dealt with," Rogers said, declining to elaborate on the town's response to an April 15 letter from Superintendent Dorothy Anderson.

In that letter, Anderson said she was disturbed by Mott's actions and asked the town to determine whether any laws were broken during his early morning visit to the school. She subsequently requested copies of the photographs to confirm their authenticity.

Rogers said he would not discuss what, if any, disciplinary action was taken in response to Anderson's complaint.

"We handled the matter per our department policies and we will continue to follow those policies," he said. "I'm not going to comment on a personnel matter."

Mott has said he was ordered by Rogers and Police Chief Michael Stevens to supply copies of the photographs to Anderson. He initially refused, but ultimately agreed to turn the photos over even though he said three lawyers told him he was under no obligation to do so.

Anderson said she also has been dealing with complaints by concerned citizens who claim there is an absence of balance in the history department at Spaulding. Specifically, they pointed the finger at Treece - a teacher they claim brought his personal political views into the classroom in an effort to "indoctrinate students."

The issue came up again earlier this week when many of Treece's current and former students joined other residents in defending him at a school board meeting that included a large number of his most vocal critics.

Anderson, who has defended Treece as a "thought-provoking" teacher who has provided students with a balanced perspective, said he hasn't escaped the incident unscathed.

Anderson said Treece won't be teaching "public issues" at Spaulding in the fall and has complied with orders that he take down two of the more inflammatory bumper stickers that until recently adorned the door to the classroom he shares with another teacher.

According to Anderson, Treece was informed on May 2 that he would not be assigned to teach public issues. She said that decision was based on desire to quell complaints about his teaching style.

"We feel he (Treece) is a lightning rod and his teaching that course would be a disruption to the orderly educational process we'd like to see restored at Spaulding," she said.

Anderson did not rule out the possibility that Treece would teach the course in the future, but said he has been assigned to teach "upper level history courses" during the school year that will start in September.

"He's not teaching that course (public issues) next year," she said.

Anderson also confirmed Treece was ordered to remove two bumper stickers from the window of his classroom door. She said Treece has removed the "Impeach Bush" and "Vermonters for a Bush/Cheney Regime Change" bumper stickers.

"We believe everything in the classroom needs to be balanced," she said. "Those (bumper) stickers crossed the line."

Two bumper stickers - "Goddess Bless the World!" and Albert Einstein's quote "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war" were allowed to remain, Anderson said.

According to Anderson, at least one parent has complained about a photograph of her child's project that has been posted, along with other pictures on Limbaugh's website.

"We're checking into it, but I'm not sure there's much we can do about it," she said.

The Times Argus has also received several e-mailed letters from out-of-state writers. Most take Treece to task for his teaching and applaud Mott for his efforts to expose the matter.

"... (Mott) should be commended and supported for what he has done and hopefully this incident will be a wake- up call for your community," wrote Bill Strange of Fayetteville, N.C. "The Tom Treeces of this country are using our freedoms to do us harm and they must be stopped." Closer to home, more letter writers were critical of the police officer and supportive of the teacher.

"I would like to thank Tom Treece and his supporters," wrote Shannon Tzrinske of East Granville. "A diverse educational experience is key to survival today.

"For too long we have taught our children only from the 'right,' leaving them with a dangerously narrow view of the world," she added. "I hope that you all continue to fight and stand up for your right to learn."

Barre resident Matt Lash urged voters in Barre and Barre Town to protest the decision not to allow Treece to teach public issues, and called for Mott to be suspended or fired.

"... At the very least, Mott should be forced to attend workshops on proper legal procedure before he is sent out on duty again," Lash wrote. "The fact that he is still carrying a badge and has a firearm is a direct threat to the entire community."
Balance 09.May.2003 11:54


Isn't it interesting. Textbooks are notoriously unbalanced. They extol the virtues of people who committed the most awful atrocities. People like Columbus, who enslaved and murdered other people, or any number of US presidents with blood in their hands. They leave out important events -- like Iran-Contra, the CIAs involvement with drug smuggling, the gulf of tonkin incident, the CIA sponsored killings of democratically elected presidents in places like Chile in 1973.

The classrooms, in the absence of sustainable funding for education, are full of corporately sponsored infomercials. Kids are presented with "Time for Kids," the right wing time warner publication for children; with "information" from the beef industry; with consumer-producing channel one television. All of these sources of "educational meterials" are biased and slanted, shamelessly pushing right wing, corporate capitalist values on children.

Why, then, would a teacher who leans another direction be challenged for "indoctrinating" children? Because he's showing them an alternative to the exploitive, dishonest, enslaving, destructive culture they're being indoctrinated into?

interesting 09.May.2003 12:38


Many of our right wing friends believe that public schools are teaching a liberal-biased program supporting homosexuality, etc (you know the drill), when in education in this country does leave out some of the historical facts you cite. I do believe there should be a fair approach to teaching history that does not knee jerk to the point where fiction or legend replaces fact. The myth about liberal education is similar to the one about liberal media. Private education can often be more biased.

They leave out more then Iran Contra 10.May.2003 15:12


As a recent graduate of a public school I want to second the comments about the imbalanced perspectives presented there. I took an american history course where WWI, Vietnam and Korea were completely ignored, not even given a passing mention. The first gulf war was cast as a war of liberation. The history that we were taught was for the most part pitiful.

There were teachers who did try to allow more perspectives and teach less savory things. They were often silenced or forced behind closed doors like the gentleman in the above acticle. I had a philosophy teacher who nearly lost his job for discussing his experiences as a medic in Vietnam and showing slides in the contest of discussing the ideas of "just war." Yes, hearing about holding is best friend from grade school after this friend had been shot and having him die there was disturbing and it was the perfect thing to knock a 16 year old out of their complacency.

I always thought the point of eduction was to expand knowledge and broaden horizons, apparently my school district was not the only one who disagrees.

Fights can be won though, we forced recruiters to back off their indocrination through protest and direct action at my school. If we can find creative and dramatic ways to encourage people to act against the system we can overcome it. Several members of my affinity group dumped buckets of animal blood onto recruiters tables. After our suspensions we came back to find a stronger and more unified group. The school tried to crack down on us but in the end we won something of a victory. Although the school systems may be corrupt making our voices heard in meetings and on committes can help and is part of trying to facilitate lasting change. Many of the administrators are governed by fear and their fear of losing control can be a powerfully tool to work for change. I hope this teachers classes will stand up for him and help him return to his teaching unmolested.


Student Projects in Tom Treece's classroom 12.May.2003 19:48

Ian ianj1@comcast.net

It is important to note that these are student projects, not Tom Treece's. If a student believes that a poster with a picture of a duct-taped George W. Bush expresses his views, then that is the project he should make. Rush Limbaugh et. al. take offense at a student expressing views that don't tow the official White House line. As for Tom Treece's bumper stickers, it is his classroom and he should be free to present his views. Telling students about your views does not imply pressing it on them. A teacher should be able to have an intelligent discussion on issue with students, and not hide them from fear of being targeted by Limbaugh and his lackeys. America was founded on the principle of all people expressing their views openly, and those values should not be abandoned because some conservative parents, an intrusive cop, and a chickenhawk radio host disagree with some of the views being presented. If Mr. Treece has hung pictures of Bush on his wall and the students had made projects glorifying the US military, his classroom would not have come under such scrutiny. It is a shame that the right wing has stolen the term "patriotic" from the rest of America.

As for Treece's openness, many closely involved with him will attest to it.

"As a teacher he does present all sides of an issue." Superintendent Dorothy Anderson
"I tell kids from day one: 'I don't want you to agree with me, I want you to be informed and think for yourselves.' [...] My goal in class is to get kids to think and be critical of everything they read and hear and see." Tom Treece

Many of the parents are assuming that the students expressing liberal viewpoints have had it pressed on them by Treece because they live in a largely conservative community. Maybe they are just thinking for themselves instead of mirroring their parents. Apparently the Rush brigade doesn't equate disagreeing with the Bush Administration with independent thinking in any case.