OPINION: Missouri Teacher Charged With Racism For Showing PragerU Video


Lucia Landa Contributor
Font Size:

I am a recent immigrant from Mexico and I am not yet a United States citizen.

I know what racism is.

Like most Mexicans, I am a traditional Catholic. For years, my husband and our daughter and I lived as expats in Saudi Arabia where we were part of a vibrant underground Catholic Church. A little less than four years ago when he had to retire from his oil company job, we moved to his native city, St. Louis. He told me it’s one of the most Catholic cities in the United States and a good place to raise children.

We moved to an urban neighborhood with a Catholic parochial school that appeared to be alive. We joined the parish, St. Margaret of Scotland. We worshipped there, and we supported it and the archdiocese financially, as generously as we possibly could. We enrolled our daughter, who will graduate from 8th grade next month.

Very soon the school started to disappoint me. There was a left-wing feminist current and “gender ideology” which is not appropriate for a Catholic school. There was constant talk of “inclusivity.”

I don’t want my daughter to be “empowered.” I want her to be educated. Still, I knew it was far better than the St. Louis urban public schools.

The bright spot was Dennis Unverferth, the middle school social studies teacher. He is the model of a Christian gentleman, father and husband, a faithful and humble follower of Jesus Christ. He was the school’s best teacher, a scholar of American history. He is very popular with both the girls and the boys, a role model of a real man. Our daughter was fortunate to have him this year for homeroom, American history, and math.

With better education and experience than most other teachers in the school, he worked as a labor of love. For 10 years he drove 100 miles round trip every day from his home in rural Illinois.

Last month, “Mr. U,” as he is universally known, was suddenly absent. At first, our daughter’s class was given rumors that he was sick. A few days later, the principal took over Mr. U’s classes and told the students she had suspended him from work for at least two weeks for some sort of misconduct and that she was considering whether he should return. Parents heard rumors and reports from the kids but received no communication from the school.

Our daughter and her classmates knew more. She told us Mr. U had been suspended for showing a PragerU video in seventh-grade social studies class. The video is called “Why You Can’t Argue with a Leftist.” The video made the principal angry, confirming her leftist bias.

A few days later, the school sent a message. The principal sent middle school parents an email saying that Unverferth had been suspended for racism. She said he had “shown a politically/racially inappropriate video to one of his classes, a video that undermines our work as a Catholic school dedicated to principles of social justice.”

We watched the PragerU video. It has absolutely no racist content. We discussed it with some other parents. It is clear to us that the video is not intentionally offensive or insulting. It contributes to responsible debate on public issues well known in the school community. It asserts opinions with which we and a number of other parents completely agree.

We tried in vain to speak with our pastor. Three days after the first email, the pastor and the principal sent an email saying that Unverferth would not be returning. They refuse to speak with the school board or parents about this “personnel matter.”

We still want to know what happened. If a man is publicly and falsely accused of racism, should he quit in outrage or wait to be fired?

The principal told our daughter and classmates that “maybe he quit.” That’s more than she has told parents. One of her allies circulated a sick email attacking Unverferth for failing to say goodbye to the kids.

As an occasional target of racism in the United States, I know the difference between victims and perpetrators of hatred and injustice.

When I witness what our “social justice warrior” parish and school leaders have done to humiliate and destroy the career of the most exemplary Christian teacher in the school, I actually feel that I will at some point be persecuted for my Catholic faith, values and principles.

Lucía Landa, formerly a businesswoman in her native Mexico City, is a wife and mother in St. Louis.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.