Colorado Teacher in Bush-Hitler Flap Reinstated

A high school teacher who was placed on leave after comparing President Bush's State of the Union address to speeches by Adolf Hitler has been reinstated without any loss of pay, his attorney and school officials said Friday.

Officials declined to say whether social studies instructor Jay Bennish faced disciplinary action, but his attorney, David Lane, said Bennish would be back in the classroom Monday "with full pay."

Bennish had been on paid leave from Overland High School in suburban Aurora since March 1 while Cherry Creek School District determined whether he violated a district rule that teachers must present balancing viewpoints in the classroom.

Superintendent Monte Moses declined to offer specifics of the investigation or its findings but said administrators and Bennish now "have a good understanding."

During a Feb. 1 lecture in a geography class, Bennish said some of Bush's State of the Union address the night before "sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say."

Bennish later said the lecture was intended to stimulate his students to think critically. He also said he always presents balancing viewpoints in class, but not always at the same time. Lane acknowledged that was a mistake.

"Jay's teaching style will perhaps be, as some would say, a little more fair and balanced on a minute-to-minute basis," Lane said. "When you put out one side, put out the other then and there."

Bennish said he would continue to try to improve as a teacher and to encourage students to think critically.

"I will be back in the classroom on Monday and I am excited to continue to teach," he said.

One of Bennish's students, Sean Allen, recorded part of the Feb. 1 lecture and provided the tape to a Denver radio station. Cherry Creek administrators said Allen's father gave a copy to them.

Sean Allen said he never wanted Bennish to be fired but hoped the school board would prevent a repeat of lectures like the one Bennish gave on Feb. 1.

Allen said he would not return to Overland because has received threats, which he said have been reported to police. But he said he did not regret publicizing Bennish's lecture.

"I would do it a million times over because I feel like it was the right thing to do, and my conscience wouldn't let me go on and listen to the things Mr. Bennish was saying and indoctrinating students."

The state Senate on Friday rejected a proposal authorizing schools to fire teachers who routinely present one-sided views in the classroom and instead agreed to a measure saying teachers who violate school policies can be dismissed.

"I think we are just trying to score political points based on what's happening on talk radio, and I don't think we ought to legislate like that," said Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver.