Teacher says write about anything, then threatens zeros to students who wrote about guns
An English teacher at Denton High School on the edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex allegedly told students to write a few sentences about whatever topic they wanted for an assignment on Monday. However, the teacher then refused to grade the work of two students because they mentioned guns.
When the students — both seniors — wrote about innocuous gun-related themes, the teacher, Dewey Christian, scolded them in front of the class. Classmates laughed, and the students were humiliated, reports KDFW, the local FOX affiliate.
Christian further informed them that their writing would yield big, fat zeros unless they wrote new paragraphs on other topics.
“Mr. Christian said, ‘I want y’all to write a paper about a fun experience y’all had — a nice experience,'” Alex Wright, one of the students, told the station. “He said you could make up something so I said, ‘Me and my mom went to Cabela’s to buy a gun.’ And as soon as he heard the word ‘gun,’ he told me to sit down.”
The other student, Marshall Williams, decided to write about a Fort Worth gun show he had recently attended.
“I feel like he stomped on our right to free speech,” Williams said of his English teacher. “He didn’t even consider what we had said.”
When he went home Monday night, Williams told his mother, Kimberly Williams, about the incident. She wasn’t happy.
“He didn’t put any parameters out for what it could be and couldn’t be. That was my problem,” Kimberly Williams told KDFW.
On Tuesday morning, Kimberly Williams and Marshall Williams met with Christian. She recorded the meeting for posterity on her cellphone. It’s not clear if Christian is aware of the recording.
In the video, which KDFW shows, Kimberly Williams asks Christian about the criteria for the assignment. His response is unclear because both the elder Williams and Christian are talking simultaneously.
“So because it had guns in it you refused to grade it?” Kimberly Williams can then be heard asking.
“Not just guns, but you see we’ve had a certain amount of violence and things in schools. …” Christian replies.
“I’m not asking you about that. I’m asking you about the subject matter of his paper and why you took issue with it,” Williams snaps back.
“The problem was not the subject matter. …” Christian responds.
“You just told me it was the subject matter,” Williams retorts.
The KDFW report suggests that the video is available on YouTube. However, no link appears to be given.
The Williams family asked for an apology, and got one — more or less — from the school district.
In a statement, the Denton Independent School District said, “The teacher has accepted the paper and apologized to the student for misperceptions. The teacher’s intent was for guns not to be trivialized in any school situation because of recent events.”
Kimberly Williams told the FOX affiliate that she remains unsatisfied.
“If it went against any district policy I would support it completely, but it doesn’t,” she told the station. “It’s just his own moral beliefs trying to be put in his classroom and I disagree with that.”
The comments to the KDFW are split so far in their support for the various characters in this story.
“I feel so very bad for Mr. Christian who has to teach these two most disrespectful ‘children’ because the parents did not know how,” asserts one commentator, Arlys. “It doesn’t take much intelligence to know that these kids picked this subject just to start a problem.”
“I am a senior at this high school. We always knew Marshall would do something crazy like this and get us on national TV,” adds Guest, a commentator who may or not actually be a senior.
“He loves guns. That’s widely known. Of course he’s going to write about them,” disagrees Calvin Hardage, another user who seems to hold out some personal knowledge of the parties. “He didn’t get his mother involved, she got involved herself. This isn’t the first time she’s had to confront this teacher.”
“If the kids had written about a religious experience and the teacher had done the same thing because of his personal dislike of the religion there would be a lot more people outraged,” speculates another commentator, Ken Rogoway. “There has been a trend towards taking away our constitutional rights. The freedom of speech is one that should never be removed; yet if someone speaks up about a topic that is currently out of vogue then society wants to squash it.”