Biased Reporting: A Breakdown

I saw the headline when a friend posted it on Facebook with the warning that such events would soon be happening all across America.  It had some definite shock value. “School’s Nation of Islam handout paints Founding Fathers as racists”I read.  Even though I homeschool my own children, I do find it disturbing that public school would hand out Islamic literature.  Perhaps it was a critical thinking assignment for high school students.  Curious about the details, I click on through to read the full article.

“The mother of an eight-year-old wants to know why a Tennessee school teacher gave her child a handout from the Nation of Islam that portrayed the presidents on Mount Rushmore as being racists.”

I can understand this.  If my eight-year-old son had been given such a thing, I would want to know a whole lot more about this situation.  Luckily, this mother had Mr. Todd Starnes helping her investigate, and he’s going to tell us what he learned.

By squinting at the picture accompanying the article, you can see that this handout pulled “facts” from the lives of four great men and attempted to define them by it.  But that wasn’t the most disturbing thing.  Sommer Bauer, the mother involved, visited a link she found on this paper and discovered the Nation of Islam Research Group.  She became even more alarmed when her son’s teacher told that her son should not have taken the handout home.

“I was caught off guard,” she told me. “I reassured my son that he needed to feel safe enough to bring anything that the school gave him home to me. Ultimately, while his teachers do care for him, his mother and his father have his absolute number one best interests at heart.”

He knows he needs to bring everything home to me, she said.

Well, our talented Todd Starnes wants to entertain the possibility that this is just an genuine mistake.  Being the bold and upright reporter he is, he investigates Ms. Bauer’s story. He discusses the handout with the school principal, and the principal is disturbed as well.  “It was not an authorized handout,” he insists.

Now a new person is alarmed: Julie West, President of Parents for Truth in Education.  She sums up this disturbing situation briefly.

“We had a teacher who apparently never looked at something, never read something, before it was distributed to a class of third graders,” West said. “In addition, she warned the students not to take it home.”

In the end, our dependable Todd Starnes realizes not everyone will automatically accept his story.  He has some words for them.

But let’s suspend reality for just a moment and say the little boy did take that handout. Regardless, there’s no disputing the fact that it was on the teacher’s desk.

And I do believe the good people of Elizabethton deserve to know how and why a handout from the Nation of Islam ended up on school property.

Obviously, every conservative in the country ought to be furious!

Well, many of them are.  While Fox News may have broken the story, several other sources have picked it up in their righteous anger.  Meanwhile, an elementary school is trying to salvage its reputation.  But you can only find that if you take the trouble to search for their page.

Welcome to Elizabethton City Schools

The following is an email sent to administrators, principals, and teachers regarding the Fox News report.

Dear Folks,
      In response to yesterday’s coverage by Fox News of an occurrence involving a sheet of paper taken home by a third-grade student at Harold McCormick Elementary School, the following is an accurate clarification:  First, when this circumstance was first  brought to my attention yesterday afternoon in a phone message, I immediately called the school Principal and obtained the details.  I then call the individual at Fox back and relayed the specific information I had just gotten.  The Principal quickly had done a thorough investigation and found the following (all of which was given to Fox News, prior to his national news report): 1) the sheet in question was not a hand-out sheet distributed to the students; 2) the sheet had been generated from internet information (on Mount Rushmore for a classroom history lesson) for the purpose of providing background material for a teacher observation; 3) the location of the sheet was on a separate teacher table adjacent to the teacher’s desk; 4) the student (without permission) took the sheet from a “ton” of discarded teacher’s material on that table; then, the student took it home and gave it to the parent.
     I was able late yesterday afternoon to obtain the sheet (via fax) and saw why it was, in fact, discarded by the teacher as material to utilize in her presentation.      Now, the thought that we as public educators would deliberately distribute such material is absolutely absurd!  What was reported (which had been rebutted prior to the airing) was misleading and totally incorrect.  I can only think it was shown for its sensational effect.  Sadly, regardless of any follow-up report, our System has been defamed (possibly permanently). Should you need more information or if you have questions, please call or e-mail me.
                             Ed Alexander

When I finally read what the school had to say, I got mad.  I have come to expect twisted and biased reporting from the left. To find it on Fox News, where supposedly conservative values are respected and truth matters, absolutely infuriates me.

Mr. Starnes “article” constantly referred to the school’s “handout” and left us wondering at the weak arguments used by the school to explain why they would have used this “handout” without intending to support such a viewpoint.

But there is an essential fact left out of this “article” all together: the school  claims it wasn’t a handout.  According to the school, the teacher recognized the unsuitability of the information and declined to use it in his/her classroom.  It wasn’t given to students.  It wasn’t passed around with a note that it was to remain in the classroom so paranoid parents didn’t realize their children were being indoctrinated.  According to the school, it wasn’t used at all.  Period.

This *ought* to make a difference.  Whether you believe the school is lying or the kid is, it still matters.  This is not a case of a school trying to explain away its actions.  This is a case of a school denying such actions all together. This is not a teacher trying to backpedal after getting caught.  This is a teacher categorically denying what he/she is accused of.

It wouldn’t have been difficult for Mr. Starnes to discover more, I think.  Rather than obtaining loaded quotes from an entity (Julie West) far removed from the incident, what about contacting other parents from that class and saying “Hey, did your kids hear about this?”  If Sommer Bauer’s son is the only child who appeared with the “handout”, wouldn’t that weigh heavily in favor of the teacher’s version of events?

We may never know exactly what happened.  I think that the school’s explanation makes the most logical sense, but no matter who is lying Mr. Starnes grossly misrepresented the school’s position in this matter, and he ought to be ashamed.  I hope and pray that the “righteous fury” of conservatives does not cost a good teacher a job.  A teacher who, apparently, had the good sense to consign biased drivel to the appropriate place: the trash.  May we all do the same.

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4 Comments
  • The Garners says:

    There is a lot of distrust of public schools, and “official statements” are often an attempt to circle the wagons around an ugly situation or a negligent teacher that has suddenly seeing the light of day via the glare of the public spotlight.

    This reporter has really gone to the mat for the pastors in Houston, so one might cut him some slack and see if he follows up on the school issue. His name by the way is Starnes, not Barnes.

    • Lizzie Smith says:

      *Ahem* When repeatedly calling someone out by name, I ought to at least get their name right, oughtn’t I. Thank you for pointing out my glaring error in such a gracious manner. I have corrected it

      I really do hope he follows up on this issue. My objection is to the fact that he has painted the school’s response as “circling the wagons” when it is actually a flat out denial of the accusations. They are not trying to cover for each other and protect themselves, they’re saying “We would never do that, the idea is repugnant to us, and it never happened.”

      The school insists that it shared their version of events with Mr. Starnes before his article was published, and if that is truly the case I remain thoroughly angry about the deliberate misconstruction of the school’s position. There are enough genuine issues in the public schools that need addressed, and inventing issues for sensational purposes discredits our attempts to tackle the real problems.

      • Lizzie Smith says:

        Also, whatever may come out in the future as to the accuracy of either student or school, Mr. Starnes ought to have done more research, spoken with other parents, and presented the school’s position accurately. (Much as I should have paid attention before calling him Barnes……) Whomever is in the right, this article still shows an appalling carelessness with the facts of the case. I think I’ll wait to pass judgement until I hear from a source other than Mr. Starnes.

      • The Garners says:

        Having graduated one from government school, I remain cynical of “public statements” from administrators. I do expect even a news analyst (vs reporter) to strive for a level of professionalism that the American public does not currently experience or seem to expect from liberal media counterparts.

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