TACOMA, Wash. — An opinion piece written by a high school teacher is raising concerns in the Tacoma school district.
AP History teacher Mike Jankanish wrote an article called “Diversity education is a divisive education,” which ran in The News Tribune last weekend.
Jankanish defended his stance on ethnic studies during an interview with KING 5 on Monday. In the article, Jankanish wrote that he is opposed to HB 1314, a legislative proposal to incorporate ethnic studies in public education in Washington.
But his opinion is not sitting well with the Tacoma School Board and many families in the district.
"If there's no accountability for what he does, then he can do whatever he wants," said Katrina Johnson, who has kids at Wilson High School where Jankanish teaches.
"Because he's a teacher and he has so much power and influence over these children, we have to hold him to a higher standard," Johnson said. "We need to push back and not just allow this to continue. He should not be teaching our children. It's just that simple."
Trina Hall's daughter had a class with Jankanish.
"These stories that are coming out are exactly the same stories that my daughter had to deal with, and it's disturbing," Hall said. "For our culture, our history, if that's omitted how are we going to learn about it?"
"He needs to be educated, because if he expects our kids to learn he also needs to learn from this. He needs to express other people's views and opinions too," said Hall.
In response to Jankanish's views, the Tacoma school district and four of the five members of the Tacoma School Board released another statement:
"When one of our own publicly shares a philosophical perspective so diametrically opposed to the essence of our school district, as high school teacher Mike Jankanish did, it compels us to respond.
"Mr. Jankanish wrote an opinion piece in The News Tribune opposed to a proposed bill in the Legislature that would require the state to develop a new ethnic studies curriculum that teaches appreciation for the contributions of diverse cultures.
We disagree with Mr. Jankanish. Not only does he make factual errors in his argument, his views do not represent the beliefs and approach of Tacoma Public Schools.
"Two of our 12 publicly-stated strategic values are cultural understanding and equity. Especially in a district like Tacoma, which welcomes students who speak more than 70 languages, we respect and celebrate the many cultures that make up our 30,000 students and 5,000 employees.
"Mr. Jankanish argues that this outlook, and the proposed legislation, undermines America.
"No, it does not. Learning about, understanding and respecting the wide range of cultures that make up America today doesn’t make America weaker and more divided. It makes us stronger and more united around the freedoms that have made our country so historically unique, accepting and powerful in the world.
"As you can imagine, with 5,000 employees, including 2,200 teachers, our workforce—like our country itself—is made up of individuals with their own political and philosophical perspectives. And the First Amendment to our U.S. Constitution allows staff members the freedom to express their views—even unpopular ones.
"What our district can and will do is require our teachers, including Mr. Jankanish, to use inclusive practices that respect the cultures and learning styles of all students, and we will require they teach the learning standards put in place by our state for each subject."
Board member Debbie Winskill did not sign the statement.