A Tacoma teacher who recently announced he would resign amid a district investigation said he was trying to join a fraternity, not the white nationalist group Proud Boys, when he made a controversial video, according to district records.
Xane Fisher was placed on paid administrative leave from teaching at First Creek Middle School in September after complaints from the public surrounding the video and various photographs appearing to show Fisher’s participation with the Proud Boys. He recently submitted his letter of resignation.
The video, which circulated on social media, appeared to show Fisher participating in a Proud Boys Facebook group “induction video” in 2018, with him saying his name and that he was “a proud western Chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world,” a declaration shared by members of the Proud Boys.
In an interview with the district’s human resources department on Nov. 18, 2020, Fisher denied he was a member of the Proud Boys and claimed he wanted to “join a fraternity at Pacific Lutheran University” and that members of the fraternity said that in order to get into the fraternity he had to “read a pledge and post it on social media.”
A PLU spokesperson told The News Tribune on Thursday there are no fraternities or sororities at PLU, but there are a few student chapter organizations that have Greek names. Fisher graduated from PLU in 2018, according to university commencement program.
During the interview with school district officials, Fisher maintained he had minimal knowledge of the Proud Boys. When asked if he was being told to make the pledge because he believed in the Proud Boys, Fisher said, “I don’t know — I was in the process of planning my wedding and did not give it much thought,” according to district documents, which were obtained by The News Tribune through a public records request.
Fisher told the district he did not know what he was pledging to and “looked it up after the fact.”
The district also asked Fisher about a photo with him and his children that shows them making an “OK” symbol with their hands, a gesture that’s been used to signify “white power.”
Fisher told the district he was making an “A-OK” sign “like Macaulay Culkin from the Christmas movies” and that he was emulating rappers. Fisher also said he’s received death threats about the allegations that he’s affiliated with the Proud Boys.
When asked by the human resources department what his beliefs were regarding white supremacy, Fisher said he stands for equity and inclusion and that white supremacy had “no place in my heart.” He added he is not and has never been a member of the Proud Boys.
In a Feb. 1 letter to Fisher, the Tacoma Public Schools said the amount of public opposition to his employment “created a disruption of District operations and those of First Creek Middle School.”
The letter also stated that Fisher violated employment disclosures by not being truthful or forthcoming during the application and new hire processes.
Fisher, a former English teacher at Graham-Kapowsin High School, was investigated by Bethel School District in 2019 for similar accusations prior to taking a job with Tacoma Public Schools as a certified teacher in September 2020. The Bethel investigation concluded there were “no overtly racial or otherwise inappropriate statements that warranted further action by the district,” according to a Sept. 5, 2019 letter from the human resources department. The district did review its nondiscrimination policy with Fisher, records show.
In an Oct. 8, 2019 response letter following the Bethel investigation, Fisher called the allegations false and claimed antifa, an antifascist group, was responsible for spreading them.
“Someone in that organization has stolen personal data from before I was a Bethel employee, fabricated a narrative, and manipulated the public sector’s due process to harass myself and my family over false accusations they created,” Fisher wrote.
“I’m not involved with any organization that espouses ideologies about supremacy of any kind, promotes hateful activity, or practices any form of intolerance,” he continued.
On April 24, 2020, Bethel School District Superintendent Tom Seigel sent a letter to Fisher, stating that his contract with the district would not be renewed the following year, citing an “unsatisfactory” evaluation rating.
Records show that Fisher submitted his resignation to Bethel School District on April 30, 2020, writing: “In the shadow of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel that I need to work closer to my home, and work closer with my local community to serve young people best.”
Tacoma Public Schools’ labor relations department said Fisher answered “No” on his employment application when asked if he was being “investigated for alleged misconduct or other alleged grounds for discipline … by his current or former employer” and if he resigned in order to “avoid discharge or non-renewal.”
In his Nov. 18 interview with the Tacoma district, Fisher maintained he was not being investigated at the time but said he “should have done better.”
Fisher’s last day in Tacoma is Aug. 31, 2021, when his contract expires. It’s typical for teachers under a contract who are placed on administrative leave to continue to receive their salary, according to district officials. He will not be teaching during that time. Fisher’s annual salary is $68,756, according to a public records obtained by The News Tribune.
“I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences this position has afforded me,” Fisher said in his resignation letter. “I wish Tacoma Public Schools success in the future.”
Fisher submitted his resignation on Feb. 23, less than a week before Tacoma Superintendent Carla Santorno wrote a letter to Catherine Slagle, director of the Office of Professional Practice at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), stating she has reason to believe Fisher “may have committed acts of unprofessional conduct.”
“Although he recently submitted his resignation with the Tacoma School District, I have sufficient reliable information that he may have a behavioral problem that may endanger the education welfare and/or personal safety of students contrary” to state law, Santorno wrote in the March 1 letter.
This story was originally published on The News Tribune.