Can this story really be true? According to a column by Bill Hill in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a New Mexico high school principal fired teacher Bill Nevins, sponsor of the poetry club, and banned poetry classes and the poetry club because a girl read an anti-war poem on the school’s closed-circuit TV channel.
Nevins has filed a lawsuit. According to the Student Press Law Center, Nevins claims the trouble started with a visit to his class by the assistant principal of Rio Rancho High, Sue Passell, as students were reading their work aloud.
Two months later, in February, Passell told Nevins his classroom activities were not meeting instructional goals and that his students were showing a lack of respect.
Shortly thereafter, a Slam Poetry Team and Write Club member read her poem “Revolution X” over the school’s closed circuit television system. An excerpt from the poem reads: “You drive by a car whose bumper screams God bless America. Well, you can scratch out the B and make it Godless because God left this country a long time ago…”
After the reading, the lawsuit alleges, the school military liaison complained to Tripp about the poem’s “disrespectful speech,” and school administrators demanded a copy of the poem to look for obscenities and inferences of inciting violence.
Nevins was put on paid leave without an explanation, the lawsuit says. “Nevins was later notified that Rio Rancho High School administrators were investigating incomplete field trip forms from a Slam Poetry Team public reading.”
Well, sure. If the guy can’t fill out field trip forms properly, he’s not fit to teach.
Update: Volokh Conspiracy updates the story, including the school district’s response and a letter from the girl whose poem started the controversy. Officials deny that Rio Rancho High has banned poetry; the girl says her free speech rights were not violated. She also complains her poem has been misquoted on the Internet.