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‘I’m Not Racist’ Says Jax Teacher Removed For Scolding Students Who Didn’t Stand For Pledge

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Kandice Clark via Facebook
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This photo of the message prompted parents to complain, Goodman said.

Daniel Goodman has been working for Duval County Public Schools this year, but no longer in his First Coast High School science classroom. He was removed within the first week after a photo of his written message to students went viral online and parents complained.

In part, the message read: “You are all extremely lucky to be living in the U.S.A. If you refuse to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or our National Anthem (AS SOME PAMPERED ARROGANT CELEBRITIES AND ATHLETES TEND TO DO), are you revealing maturity and wisdom? Actually, you are displaying the opposite.”

Read more on the incident from WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union.

This week, Goodman joined WJCT’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross to reflect on what cost him his classroom.  The following is a rough transcript of that interview, edited for clarity and brevity:

Melissa Ross:  What happened?

Daniel Goodman: It was a homeroom class. The principal makes an announcement at that time to please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and we have a flag in the classroom. So he made the announcement on Monday, and so I stood up and put my hand over my heart and said the pledge. Not one out of about 30 in the homeroom of 11th graders, not one of the kids stood up. And so I was a little surprised. Second day, same thing. And so the third day, I was thinking, ‘OK, they're going to do the same thing.’ So I wrote my message on the board. And two kids did stand up of about 30.

Here is the whole message I wrote:

THINK: We had about a half million Americans die in our Civil War, which was largely to get rid of slavery. There are no longer separate water fountains and bathrooms in Jacksonville for “white” and “colored,” as Mr. Goodman remembers from the 1960?s. We had an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing women the right to vote. We have had a Black president. The superintendent of Duval Schools is a Black woman. Mr. Fluent, our principal, replaced a Black man, Mr. Simmons, who now is a D.C.P.S. administrator.

MY POINT? You are all extremely lucky to be living in the U.S.A. If you refuse to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or our National Anthem (AS SOME PAMPERED ARROGANT CELEBRITIES AND ATHLETES TEND TO DO), are you revealing maturity and wisdom? Actually, you are displaying the opposite.

-Mr. G.

I didn't think it would be a big controversy. I just thought I was stating some facts there. I would have probably written it a little differently, because I didn't think it would be a controversy, but I could see how it might be. I was informed by the school that I wouldn't go back to the classroom the next day, and then that Friday I went to the consolidated services warehouse, where I still am working.

MR: What was the school system’s rationale for removing you from the classroom?

DG: I don't blame the Duval County School Board. They want to avoid controversies. There are a couple of things I would have changed. I would have said, where I put, 'You’re all extremely lucky to be living in the USA,' I would have been smarter to put 'We are all lucky.' It seemed like I was picking on them. And the reason I mentioned that we've had the end of slavery was because the class, I think it was majority African American. And I thought, ‘OK, maybe they don't want to stand for the pledge because they hear from so many people that we’re such a racist nation.’ So I wanted to point out that while we're not perfect, that we've made a lot of improvements. I was trying to tell kids you can succeed in this world and, it's a pretty good country — not perfect, but pretty good.

MR: Some students and parents found your words offensive and racist. What's your response?

DG: My response is I know I'm not a racist. In this day and age, you'd have to be kind of an imbecile to be a real, true racist — for instance, whatever you think of his politics, [U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary] Ben Carson was chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Now that means he did brain surgery on little kids at one of the greatest teaching hospitals in the world. So I would say to a racist, ‘You try and be head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins.’

And so in other words, I'm not at all a racist. Before I was at Duval Public Schools, I was at a private, mostly black Christian school called Esprit de Corps on the Northside. I was there the previous four years before I got back with Duval, and it’s like 99% African American. And so I know in my heart I'm not a racist.

I thought it was just bad for these kids to go through life disrespecting the flag and thinking that we're such an evil country or some bad country.

MR: Could they have just been not standing for the pledge because they're tired? There might have been other reasons.

DG: Well, that's a possibility. I can't see what's in each person's heart. But the principal got on the radio on the intercom and very clearly said, ‘Let's all stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.’ I'm in my mid-60s. I had the energy to stand up and put my hand on my heart. These are 11th graders. And I think they're getting it from somewhere.

I think it's sort of good that this happened to me, even though I didn't see controversy. I think if this might be typical of teenage kids all around the country, that they're being fed this whole thing by a lot of people, like, ‘Oh, we're such a terrible, racist, sexist country.’ I think that's incorrect.

MR: But was that why they weren't standing for the pledge?

DG: I think they were purposely disrespecting the flag.

MR: Do you hope to teach again?

DG: I would be happy to. I'm in my mid-60s. I was going to retire this year anyway from full-time teaching. So I'd be happy to go back to the classroom. If not, that's out of my hands.

Hear the entire interview with Goodman, along with the full episode of First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, here.