A high school in suburban Chicago has fired a driver’s ed teacher who told a student he must stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The mother of Shemar Cooper, a 15-year-old sophomore student at Eisenhower High School, says driving instructor Vince Ziebarth — who had been employed as a full-time driving instructor at the school for the last three years — told her son that he would not be able to drive with him if he continued to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to Ziebarth, he drove with Cooper for one lesson in February. During the lesson, Cooper asked when Ziebart would take him out again. That’s when the teacher told him how he felt about the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I told him I stand to honor the sacrifice and bravery of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It doesn't mean America is perfect, or that we agree with everything going on," he told the Chicago Tribune.
Cooper’s mother, Kelley Porter Turner, claimed that Ziebarth was infringing on her son’s First Amendment rights. She reportedly emailed Eisenhower High School and told them to “take care of it.”
Ziebarth was reportedly fired last week for making “inappropriate comments.”
Ziebarth says he stands by his decision, and says Cooper could have taken lessons with seven other driving instructors.
“I told him he can make a choice to sit, but as long as you choose to sit, you will not sit in my (drivers ed) vehicle. I did not tell him what to do," he told the Tribune.
This isn’t the first time the school has addressed the issue. Earlier this school year, a Spanish teacher was reprimanded when he grabbed cooper by the arm when Cooper refused to stand for the Pledge, and also told him “America sucks.”
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.