A popular driving teacher at a Chicago suburb high school has been fired for refusing to teach a student who would not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Vince Ziebarth, commonly known among students as "Mr. Z," was fired from Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Illinois, after a confrontation with 15-year-old Shemar Cooper ended in Ziebarth declining to teach the teenager how to drive as long as he sat for the pledge, reports WMAQ.
"I believe the Pledge is a sacred thing," the Drivers Ed instructor, who worked at the school for eight years, told WGN.
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Ziebarth said that the incident happened so "long ago" that he "honestly had no idea" that administrators even had a problem with his decision.
"I didn't even know where the principal's office was," he said. "I've got a sterling reputation in this district."
Many students have signed a petition on Change.org to bring their teacher back to school.
"I just don't see how this is controversial, that you stand up just to honor those who gave everything," Ziebarth told WMAQ.
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Shemar's mother, Kelly Porter, said that her son should not be punished for peacefully expressing his First Amendment rights and making a political statement. According to Porter, Ziebarth took it too far by forcing his beliefs on her son.
"He does not stand because Shemar does not believe in America," Porter said. "He says America is a very racist country, there is no freedom or love for black people."
Porter, who has military family, including her father who fought in World War II, said in September 2016 that she and her son "do not hate America" but rather that they "disapprove of" some anti-black "behaviors" from some people in the country, according to WGN.
"America doesn't respect Blacks," Shemar told WGN. "Until they stop killing us, I'm not going to stand up."
At the time, Porter said that a teacher tried to physically force Shemar to stand for the pledge, and the school conducted an investigation. Porter wanted to file criminal charges against the teacher.
Now, she is applauding the school for firing Ziebarth and urging administrators to teach students about First Amendment rights.
"Adults should not behave that way," said Porter of the driving instructor. "That's childish. That's really childish for him to say my son's behaviors … let me correct myself, my son's First Amendment right to sit doesn't align with his beliefs."