Saturday, April 17, 2010
Teacher Jason Levin is under investigation after his "Crash the Tea Party" Web site called on supporters to infiltrate anti government protests. (KATU)
An Oregon teacher who announced his intention to "dismantle and demolish the Tea Party" has been placed on administrative leave until his school district finishes its investigation into whether his political activity crossed the line.
The state's Teacher Standards & Practices Commission is also conducting an investigation into Jason Levin, a media teacher at Conestoga Middle School in Beaverton.
"Jason is on paid administrative leave," Maureen Wheeler, the school district's spokeswoman, told FoxNews.com. She described the suspension as "standard practice during an internal investigation."
Levin has come under fire for saying he'd do anything short of throwing rocks to bring down the Tea Party. In the last two days, the Beaverton School District has received thousands of e-mails and phone calls from people across the country who said they were outraged at his behavior.
The school district is defending Levin's right to free speech, but it's investigating whether he used district computers to spread his political message or worked on his "Crash the Tea Party" Web site during school hours. Levin has said he would seek to embarrass Tea Partiers by attending their rallies dressed as Adolf Hitler, carrying signs bearing racist, sexist and anti-gay epithets and acting as offensively as possible -- anything short of throwing punches.
A source within the district said parents at Conestoga did not initially appear upset at Levin's anti-Tea Party activism -- but that changed in recent days as controversial statements continued to emerge.
Now, the source said, parents have become outraged by the severity of his political activism, and many have told the school board members that it has no place in a public school system.
Parents supported teachers who wore Obama buttons during the 2008 presidential election, the source said. But they say Levin has crossed the line.
Levin's Web site has since been changed, and the calls to infiltrate the Tea Party have been removed. The home page now simply reads: "Want to Show your support for Jason Levin? BUY A TEA-SHIRT."
In a recent interview with Talking Points Memo, Levin said of his plans, "Our goal is that whenever a Tea Partier says 'Barack Obama was not born in America,' we're going be right there next to them saying, 'Yeah, in fact he wasn't born on Earth! He's an alien!'"
In a now deleted post on his "Crash the Tea Party" Web site, he called on his supporters to collect the Social Security numbers -- among other personal identifying information -- about as many Tea Party supporters as possible at the numerous rallies that took place on Thursday, Tax Day.
"Some other thoughts are to ask people at the rally to sign a petition renouncing socialism. See just how much info you can get from these folks (name address, DOB, Social Security #). The more data we can mine from the Tea Partiers, the more mayhem we can cause with it!!!!" he wrote.
The state agency is investigating whether this is a hint at identity theft, and whether it is appropriate behavior for a public school teacher. It also will investigate charges that Levin used school computers during school hours to work on his Web site. Levin teaches 6th, 7th and 8th graders about computers and technology.
According to the school district laws regulating teacher conduct, which are posted online: "The Beavertown School District rules involving teacher use of the district's electronic system clearly state: The district's electronic communications system shall be used for educational purposes consistent with the district's mission, priorities and beliefs. Educational purposes do not include commercial use, use for personal financial gain or political advocacy."
The investigation will be assigned to a case agent who will compile a preliminary report that will be presented before the commission. The commission members will then decide whether to charge Levin with misconduct or dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence, said Melody Hanson, the director of professional practices.