Videos by OutKick
Now, to a story that isn’t open and shut.
A high-school teacher in Fairbanks, Alaska — addressed as “Ms. Gardner” in the video — has been placed on administrative leave following a viral video where she addressed recent police killings with her students. During the virtual class meeting, which was later posted to YouTube, Gardner discusses incidents involving Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant, and George Floyd. The last of which led to her suspension.
Here’s what the teacher said to her students:
“I do not agree that the Chauvin guy was right – I think he abused his authority, and I think he went too far. And I think that he was complicit in George Floyd’s death. I think that there were many factors that contributed to it, and that was one of them.
“But if George Floyd had just sidled into the car, slid in there, and let them put his legs in, he would be alive today and you know that’s true.
“So that’s my message to you. If any of you find yourself in a situation where you are – justly or unjustly – being addressed by the police and ordered to do something, please comply. Do not fight the cops. Don’t try to run away.”
Let’s take the paragraphs in italics one by one.
First, it’s not an educator’s job to tell students what to think. It’s her job to explain the facts, answer questions, and let students develop their own opinions without pressure. Gardner started by saying, “I do not agree.” That’s unnecessary. That’s an opinion. And I’m saying this as someone who mostly agrees with what she said in that paragraph. A teacher’s opinion is persuasive, thus it’s not “just an opinion.”
The second paragraph got the teacher in trouble. Floyd should have complied. That’s not an excuse, that’s context. There’s a difference. However, telling students “you know that’s true” is not context. That’s her telling students how they should think. It also comes across as personal. In addition, it was not smart. There’s no way a teacher can get away with that in 2021, let alone as sloppily as she put it. She could have easily reworded the paragraph to the following: “George Floyd added risk to the situation by not sliding into the car and letting the police put his legs in.” That would’ve given her a puncher’s chance, if her fate makes it to the board.
The third is not complicated. “If any of you find yourself in a situation where you are – justly or unjustly – being addressed by the police and ordered to do something, please comply” — Gardner is correct. That’s true and should be taught to students and even adults. There’s a place to fight back, it’s called court. It’s not at the scene of an arrest. Life decisions are about weighing upsides and downsides. In this case, the former is non-existent. “Do not fight the cops. Don’t try to run away,” Gardner goes on, two sentences that should be reiterated in classrooms and at home.
Later, Gardner is heard telling students that the media disproportionately focuses on incidents involving white officers killing black suspects. This brings us to a gray area. Should a teacher be the one saying that? If proper data is provided along with examples of the media’s coverage, students would draw their own conclusion, with some of them agreeing with Gardner, as I do.
Then, once again, the teacher got sloppy, saying, “Look at how you guys are dressed. You guys are dressed nicely – you don’t look like thugs. You don’t have your pants down around your knees.” Lazy and distracting from the point she tried to make.
As necessary as it feels to take a side, pick option A or B, say yes or no, to cheer or protest — it’s not always either/or. Often, multiple things are true at once:
- Teachers should focus less on opinions, more on context.
- Floyd should have complied, but that does not excuse Chauvin’s actions.
- All citizens should listen to officers, and that should be taught.
- Gardner made good points. She was correct on several points.
- Gardner did a poor job at times, making a bevy of mistakes.
From that, you can conclude what repercussions or lack thereof Gardner should face.