Published March 03, 2006
AURORA, Colo. – The embattled Colorado teacher who was suspended after espousing critical remarks about President Bush and U.S. foreign policy has apparently decided to not file a lawsuit against the school that is investigating him.
Denver attorney David Lane, who has also represented such clients as University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, said Friday that his client, geography teacher Jay Bennish, has decided not to file a lawsuit against the Cherry Creek School District. The news came after the school said it would relax its gag order against Bennish, which barred him from speaking to the media.
The district placed Bennish on administrative leave after one of his students submitted an audio recording of the teacher's in-class politicking, which included comparisons of Bush's State of the Union remarks and "things that Adolf Hitler used to say."
Although Bennish was suspended from teaching at Overland High School while school administrators investigate whether he violated a policy requiring balancing viewpoints in the classroom, Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Tustin Amole insists that putting Bennish on leave was not a disciplinary move.
About 150 high school students walked out of class earlier Thursday to protest Bennish's suspension.
"It was peaceful. The students yelled, but there was no fighting," Amole said. "Most of them did return to class."
A telephone number listed for Bennish, who has been teaching social studies and American history at Overland since 2000, had been disconnected.
Sophomore Sean Allen recorded about 20 minutes of Bennish's class during a Feb. 1 discussion about Bush's State of the Union speech and gave the MP3 recording to his father, who complained to the principal, Amole said.
"After listening to the tape, it's evident the comments in the class were inappropriate. There were not adequate opportunities for opposing points of view," she said.
Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, which represents about 37,000 union teachers, said it will not represent Bennish because he is not a member.
Allen said he still feels "100 percent" that he did the right thing, and he doesn't regret it but said he may have to transfer to a different school. The 16-year-old said he has received threats of physical violence since coming forward with this.
Allen told FOX News that the political rant in question was not an isolated incident and that only about 20 percent of Bennish's classes are actually about geography; the rest is normally devoted to the teacher's personal politics. But he still doesn't want to see Bennish fired.
"I do respect him as a teacher. As a geography teacher, I feel that he's very knowledgeable in geography. My opinion is starting to sort of shift on that situation," Allen said during an interview on "Hannity and Colmes." "I believe he should be reprimanded and he should be able to answer for this, but I have also gotten calls from a lot of parents that say they have called in two months ago to complain about this teacher and nothing had really been done."
Allen added that simply talking to the teacher about his politicking isn't as easy as it sounds.
"Overall, he was a pretty intimidating teacher to confront, just with his body language and the things he said and how he said them," he said.
Allen said he had complained about Bennish before to school officials and that since then, the teacher would try to indirectly intimidate him in the classroom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.