ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI/CNN) - Although a substitute teacher says he was banned from a Missouri high school for thanking students who recited the Pledge of Allegiance, the school district says it was a pattern of incidents that led to his dismissal.
Jim Furkin, 66, graduated from the Parkway School District before working there as a substitute teacher for 10 years. For the past five years, he says he has been filling in at Parkway South High School almost daily.
Now, he says district officials told him he can no longer work at the school after thanking students for standing for the pledge.
Of the 24 students in the class where the incident allegedly happened, Furkin says 22 stood.
“So, I say, 'Thank you very much, all of you that participated. I appreciate that, and I'm sure all of those families that lost loved ones so we could have the freedoms we have today would appreciate that, too,” Furkin said.
Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty sent a letter home to parents and staff saying Furkin’s comments “caused disruption.” The two students who didn’t stand were humiliated and teased, he wrote.
Marty also stressed that no substitute teacher would be restricted from a school based on a single, isolated incident. He said Furkin had a “pattern of inappropriate conduct,” including sharing his personal contact information with students and recording video of students without their permission.
Officials told Furkin he could still work at other schools in the district, but the former substitute teacher says he won’t be returning.
"That flag is not to be taken for granted, in my opinion. It is our symbol of freedom,” he said.
The school district said the pledge is proudly recited in all of its schools and classrooms. Students can choose to participate, and teachers are not to make judgments about their choice.