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Kansas Teacher Claims Conservative Views Led to Loss of Job

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Tim Latham

Tim Latham, who has spent the last 19 years teaching students American history and government, spent the past school year at a high school in Lawrence, Kan. — and it appears his first year at the school will be his last.

Latham claims it has nothing to do with his abilities as a teacher and everything to do with his conservative politics.

Latham — who was criticized for not airing President Obama's inaugural address during an American history class — says he first realized during a meeting last September with Assistant Principal Jan Gentry that his personal political views weren't making the grade with the rest of the faculty at the 2,000-student Lawrence High School.

The 44-year-old teacher filed a grievance earlier this month with his district after his contract was not renewed in April. He argues the district didn't follow the proper process.

"It's gross misconduct," he said. "[The district] jumped straight to non-renewal."

Several calls placed to Gentry, Principal Steve Nilhas and District Superintendent Randy Weseman were not returned. Kansas National Education Association Director Bruce Lindskog could not be reached for comment.

David Cunningham, director of human resources for the school district, declined to discuss Latham's allegations in detail.

"All I can say is we have procedures in place to make decisions on employment," Cunningham told FOXNews.com. "All of our procedures were followed correctly."

Latham claims school officials violated his contract by not conducting proper reviews — four 20-minute in-class evaluations throughout the year — and says they were looking for a way to get rid of him due to his personal politics.

During Latham's brief meeting with Gentry, he claims Gentry told him his school-affiliated Web site was "too patriotic." The site has links to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force, the U.S. Army and other military-and history-related sites.

"I mean, I teach American history and government," Latham explained. "We had been in school not even a month."

He claims the critiques took a personal turn in October, when class lessons began focusing on the presidential race between Obama and John McCain. One student, whom Latham declined to identify, complained to Gentry that he had been too critical of Obama.

"I had been called into [Gentry's office] and was told I was picking on Obama in class," Latham said. "But I didn't cover anything else that wasn't already covered by anybody else in the news."

Latham says he supported McCain because of the Arizona senator's military service and lengthy political experience. He admitted to offering students critical viewpoints of Obama due to his lack of experience compared to McCain.

"When you try to show two sides of an individual, sometimes people don't like that," he said. "They want to hear all of the sunshine, but none of the rain. I aligned more with [McCain's] values than I did with Obama, but I treated Obama with fairness."

Latham also said that Gentry asked him about a "McCain-Palin" bumper sticker on his car.

"She said, 'I don't know how you could support that woman,'" Latham said. "That was the beginning of what was going on. They were trying to find a reason to get rid of me."

The married father of three said the experience hasn’t affected his desire to teach. And support from students and a local conservative group have inspired him to fight for his job.

Chloe Mercer, who graduated Lawrence High School last month, said Latham's class was her favorite and said he was fair despite his decision not to show Obama's inauguration in class.

"He chose not to show it, but he printed out Obama's speech and we read it and discussed what we felt was good about it," Mercer told FOXNews.com. "[Latham] was fair. He listened to all sides of every issue. He actually made print-outs of every candidate and how they felt on certain hot-button issues."

Latham defended his decision not to show Obama's inauguration because he'd opted not to show any similar events.

"I've never shown an inauguration," he said. "I never showed any of Bush's; I wouldn't have shown McCain's. I was not showing any bias towards Obama ... I didn't intend to interrupt the class."

Asked if she felt Latham brought his personal politics into the classroom, Mercer replied, "Not really. He was very good about looking at both candidates. Sometimes his conservative side would show, but my opinion along with anyone else's was always valued."

Mercer, a self-described liberal, said she hopes school officials revisit their decision. She's one of many current and former Lawrence High students supporting Latham on a Facebook page.

"It's really disappointing because he's a really good teacher," she said. "It doesn't seem fair. Why would they let a good teacher go?"