Tacoma-area parent says son booted from class for admiring Trump; district investigating

Tacoma-area parent says son booted from class for admiring Trump; district investigating
President Donald Trump stands on the balcony outside of the Blue Room as returns to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md. A federal appeals court says Trump's accountant must turn over his tax records to a New York state prosecutor. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled Wednesday, Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon)

PARKLAND, Wash. — Franklin Pierce School District is investigating after a parent said her son was briefly booted from a virtual class chatroom for saying he admired President Donald Trump.

Elsy Kusander’s son, a sixth grader at Keithley Middle School in Parkland, was attending virtual class Oct. 2 when his teacher asked students to name a person they admired, Kusander told 770 KTTH Radio’s Jason Rantz.

Kusander’s son wrote in the classroom chat:

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“I admire Donald J. Trump because he is making America great again. And because he is the best president the United States of America could ever, ever have. And he built the wall so terrorists couldn’t come into in the U.S. Trump is the best person in the world. And that’s why I had admire him.”

Kusander told Rantz her son was briefly disconnected from the class, and his comment was erased from the chat by the teacher, Brendan Stanton. He was invited to rejoin class several minutes later.

“He was trying to convince my son that he shouldn’t admire the president,” she told Rantz.

Efforts by The News Tribune to reach Kusander were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Franklin Pierce School District spokesperson Joel Zylstra told The News Tribune on Tuesday the district is investigating.

“We’re still assembling pieces of what happened,” said Zylstra. He added that Stanton would not be commenting at this time.

After her son’s comment was removed, Kusander recorded Stanton talking to the class. He was not aware she was recording.

“The example that was shared in the chat, which I went ahead and erased for us, was not appropriate, especially as that individual has created so much division and hatred between people, and has specifically spoken hatred to many different individuals,” Stanton said on the recording.

Stanton also said that he had readjusted the settings to the chat and that his question to students was not clear enough.

Zylstra said the video footage is incomplete and that the district is working to determine what happened prior to the student being removed from the chat. Lessons are usually recorded, but it’s common for an introduction to a class to not be filmed, he said.

Zylstra also said that since the incident has been shared across the country, Stanton has received threats, and district officials are worried about his safety.

“Our goal at the end of the day is to create a safe and equitable learning environment for all students,” Zylstra said.

Kusander also recorded a conversation between Stanton and her after class was over, voicing her concerns that her son was punished because of his opinion.

In the recording, Stanton told Kusander the class was discussing computer scientists and that her son’s answer was off-topic.

He also said other students in the class took offense to her son’s comments.

“My perspective has nothing to do with Donald Trump himself — I try to keep politics out of the classroom,” Stanton said to Kusander. “My concern was with when he mentioned that the accomplishment was building a wall, and he used the word terrorist, which for another student was taken as an insult.”

Stanton continued, “We know that our neighbors at the Southern border are not all terrorists, right, and so to say that people crossing the border are terrorists, I think some students took that offensively.”

Stanton apologized to Kusander and echoed that he was trying to keep the class on topic.

Kusander, who said she is from Honduras, felt that her son’s comments were not hateful. She said she shared the videos because she wants other parents to be involved with their students' learning.

“If the teacher has the platform to show his opinions, political opinions, I think as parents we need to stand up and say no; we send our children to school to learn things that will help him in life,” she told Rantz. “But I don’t want somebody to brainwash him with ideas just because it’s his personal opinion.”