News of a massive student protest in Colorado against a "conservative-led school board proposal" has prompted Fox News to rethink its stance on student freedoms.
Earlier this week, hundreds of students across six high schools in Arvada, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms amid news of a "conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority." The Associated Press reported that the curriculum proposal would establish a committee to ensure certain history materials "don't 'encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law'":
Student participants said their demonstration was organized by word of mouth and social media. Many waved American flags and carried signs, including messages that read "There is nothing more patriotic than protest."
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."
On September 25, Fox & Friends hosted Ken Witt, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, which oversees the Arvada schools, to discuss the protests. Amid chyrons like "Political Pawns" and "Teachers Are Using Students," Witt alleged that the real issue was not the history curriculum proposal, but rather the upcoming teachers union contract :
WITT: That's the unfortunate situation that's going on. I believe that there is a significant amount of union conflict right now that we would like to not have. The issue is that it's easy to get children out. It's easy to use kids as pawns and it's not right. We have a union contract that's expiring in August of this year.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck parroted Witt's allegations, saying, "What concerns me is that what I'm hearing from you, and correct me if I am wrong, is that there is someone else behind this planting it and using these students for their own gain."
Though Fox hosted Witt to scapegoat teachers unions (an approach the network has taken multiple times) for the voluntary actions of students, Fox's apparent disapproval of these protests stands in stark contrast with the network's recent lauding of students exercising their First Amendment rights.
On September 2, Fox & Friends hosted student Madeline Taylor who the co-hosts claimed was "taking a stand" against the healthy school lunch program and plugged her "petition to bring back the pizza and French fries." Co-host Steve Doocy argued that students should be able to decide their own lunches because "they're the customer," an unsurprising assertion given that Fox News has repeatedly attacked first lady Michelle Obama's healthy lunch initiative.
In May, the Fox & Friends hosts smeared a Florida teacher as a "Bible Bully" for supposedly "humiliating" a student for reading his Bible during a free reading period, even though school officials maintained that he was reading his Bible during a "classroom 'accelerated reading' program." Doocy recalled the student telling the teacher, "If you have a problem with this, you need to call my dad," with Hasselbeck nodding and saying, "That's right." Fox radio host Todd Starnes later joined the program to assert that "The law is very clear - this young man does have the right to read that Bible in that classroom," and Hasselbeck recollected that the "the Supreme Court ... ruled that the prayers in open town council meetings do not violate the Constitution. It was a 5-4 decision."
Such hypocrisy makes clear that Fox News only approves of students exercising their First Amendment freedoms when it fits the network's conservative agenda.
Screenshot via Fox 31 using a Creative Commons license.