MANCHESTER, Mo. — Students walked out of class Monday at Parkway South High School to protest the banning of a popular substitute teacher.
“We just wanted to support our teacher and our country and not be silenced,” said Parkway South Junior Brett Hoekstra.
He and about 30 others rallied around the school's flagpole in support of long-time substitute teacher Jim Furkin. Many of them were dressed in Hawaiian shirts.
“It's kind of a symbolism to Mr. Furkin. He wore them almost every day,” said Hoekstra.
In October, Furkin praised students at Parkway South for standing and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. But the Parkway School District said that decision led to students who chose not to participate being humiliated and teased.
“I don't see how he could get kicked out of Parkway South for thanking students for standing up. It's just confusing,” said Hoekstra.
But the district claims Furkin has a history of inappropriate conduct.
He was previously banned from Parkway Central High School for taking photos of students in gym class. A district spokesperson said Furkin told them he was taking the shots as proof of kids who were misbehaving.
Then, he was warned after, by all accounts, innocently giving his personal contact information to a student at Parkway South. The district says, regardless of intent, both actions were conduct-policy violations.
Furkin declined an interview Monday, but stood up for himself during last week's school board meeting.
“How in the world can we go from thanking the kids for saying the pledge of allegiance to being charged with bullying?” Furkin asked board members. “It's kind of like saying, ‘Ms. Davis, I like your hair tonight.’ But if I don't say the same thing to Ms. Hopper, she gets offended.”
Monday, students made a pointed stand for their teacher by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the walkout.
Hoekstra has high hopes for Furkin’s future.
“I hope he can come back,” said Hoekstra.
The students who walked out were allowed to return to class and so far, there hasn't been any disciplinary action taken against them.
While he's banned from Parkway South, the district says Furkin was not fired and could still teach at other Parkway schools.