A Northern California junior high school history teacher is telling angry parents the letter to President Bush he sent home with their children for them to sign may have said they wanted to renounce their U.S. citizenship, but he never was going to mail them and he only meant for them “to start a discussion.”
According to administrators at Bidwell Junior High School in Chico, Calif., the letter Mike Brooks sent home with his eighth-grade students was part of his lesson plan on the Declaration of Independence.
Brooks told the Chico Enterprise Record the letter was his attempt to put America’s founding document into current language and he intended for his students to take it home for their parents to review and discuss with their children.
The letter, sent without an explanantion or disclaimer, concluded by saying, “After careful consideration of the facts of our current situation, I have decided to announce to everyone that I am no longer a citizen of the United States, but a free and independent member of the global community.”
Principal Joanne Parsley said Brooks was counting on the students to explain to their parents the letter was part of the lesson plan.
“The point was, I wanted to ask parents if they would sign such a letter if conditions that existed prior to the Revolution were happening now,” Brooks said. “I just wanted to start a discussion.”
The letter certainly started a discussion in the home of Michael Hill, whose daughter Kaytlen, 13, told him she was supposed to bring it back to school, signed the next day. When he quizzed her further, she told him about the classroom lessons behind the letter.
“The lesson being taught in class was that the U.S. kidnaps innocent people and takes them to Cuba, where they are kept indefinitely and tortured,” Hill said he learned from Kaytlen. When he asked if the teacher had mentioned Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. is holding terror suspects, she told him, “Yes.”
Brooks also told the class illegal wiretaps and other types of government surveillance were being directed at innocent people, according to Hill’s daughter, who was in tears when she told her father.
“I think I was more irritated by the classroom discussion than the letter,” Hill said.
Some parents signed and returned the letter and it resulted in a “wonderful discussion” in class about attitudes in Revolutionary times and those held today, Brooks said.
“When it was written, the Declaration was considered an inflammatory document,” Brooks said. “There were a lot of loyalists around then.”
Parsley said she and the district’s assistant superintendent were shocked when they first saw Brook’s original letter, which had been sent without administrative approval, but she said she didn’t believe the teacher had any political agenda he was pushing.
On Wednesday, Brooks sent a second letter home to parents explaining the assignment and assuring them it was only meant for classroom discussion, and Parsley sent letters of apology to irate parents.
On the same day, Michael Hill had his daughter transferred to a different history class.