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'Danger to our society'

Teachers of the Year warn against Donald Trump

From left to right, Niskayuna family Chris, Dick, Beth, Elaine and Richard Ognibene. Dick and Elaine are the parents of Beth, Chris and Richard; Chris is the social studies department head at Schenectady High School and Richard is a science teacher at Fairport High School near Rochester and the 2008 New York Teacher of the Year.
From left to right, Niskayuna family Chris, Dick, Beth, Elaine and Richard Ognibene. Dick and Elaine are the parents of Beth, Chris and Richard; Chris is the social studies department head at Schenectady High School and Richard is a science teacher at Fairport High School near Rochester and the 2008 New York Teacher of the Year.
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— Niskayuna native and 2008 New York Teacher of the Year Richard Ognibene didn’t parse words in a letter he helped pen about this year’s presidential election – taking aim at one candidate in particular.

The letter – signed by 10 state teachers of the year from across the country – describes Donald Trump as a “danger to our society,” arguing his behavior and comments this election “goes against everything we teach the children in our care.”

“We are teachers. We are supposed to remain politically neutral. For valid reasons, we don’t want to offend our students, colleagues or community members,” Ognibene and the other teachers wrote in the public letter published this month. “But there are times when a moral imperative outweighs traditional social norms. There are times when silence is the voice of complicity. This year’s presidential election is one such time.”

[Capital Region students get taste of election process]

With his language about minority groups, his proposal to ban Muslims from the country and his 2005 comments about getting away with groping and kissing women, Trump has crossed a line that previous candidates have not crossed, said Ognibene, who teaches science at Fairport High School near Rochester.

The letter cites an 8-year-old girl who asked her teacher Justin Minkel if he was afraid of Trump. The Mexican-American girl told her teacher she was “very afraid of him.” A former student of Ognibene’s, an Indian-American woman, told him that her 9-year-old daughter asked her if they would “have to live on the other side of the wall” if Trump was elected president.

“I think we have to let our kids know that the behavior we are seeing is not normally what one sees in a presidential election,” he said in phone interview last week. “The promise of America and the promise of public schools is that we welcome everyone and accept diversity in all its beautiful forms, and I felt in this election at least one of the candidates has pushed away in that belief.”

His younger brother Chris Ognibene is the social studies department head at Schenectady High School. Chris Ognibene largely agrees with his brother’s assessment of the election, with the added corollary that social studies teachers are in the critical position of objectively moderating class political discussions.

“While I’m not critical of ideology or policy, I’m critical of demagoguery, racism, hate speech, inciting violence ... that’s the line for me,” Chris Ognibene said. “Those are things that humans should not be doing to other humans.”

He said it’s important that social studies helps provide students with historical and political context in understanding today’s election. How do Trump’s views compare to other Republicans? How do other Republicans respond to some of Trump’s comments and proposals? After Trump accused an Indiana-born judge of bias because of his “Mexican heritage,” Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that was “the textbook definition of a racist statement,” for example.

But teachers still must walk a fine line in the classroom, particularly social studies teachers.

“It is delicate, because you don’t want to force people away from one view,” Chris Ognibene said.

Anne Sharpe, a Schenectady High School social studies teacher, said there is plenty her students can talk about without needing to know where she stands politically.

“I always try to not express how I feel and serve as a moderator and facilitator,” said Sharpe, who teaches government classes this year. “There’s so much to talk about, so much going on, they don’t need to know my personal opinion. There’s just so much to discuss.”

And Richard Ognibene also drew a distinction between what a teacher says in his or her class and how they express views publicly.

“To be clear, this is not about teachers speaking to students about their particular preferences. This is about educators as a group voting in a way that benefits their kids and engages the community,” he said.

But the letter published in the Washington Post earlier this month leaves little room to wonder what those teachers think of Trump or who they intend to support next month.

“He has cloaked hatred and discrimination, the most un-American values, in a false patriotism,” they wrote of Trump. “His vision of America is not a unified country based on common values; rather it is a separate and unequal country based on race, gender, ethnicity and religion. We believe the threat posed by Mr. Trump is too glaring to ignore.”

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, zmatson@dailygazette.net or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.

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comments

FrankLowe
October 30, 2016
4:40 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Perhaps if any of them had jobs, and didn't line their pockets through taxpayer funded extortion, they'd see things differently.
Oh, and yes, I suport publik skools and teechers

comanche
October 30, 2016
5:27 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Not to mention they are union members who follow blindly. Who really cares what they think anyway...

cracker
October 30, 2016
5:57 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Teachers rarely support republicans anyway, as with most public sector employees.

Rob1986
October 30, 2016
5:57 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Typical Leftist teacher garbage. Take a moment in your classes to tell the precious children the Bill Clinton rape of Juanita Broderick story, and how the innocent saint-like Hillary led the effort to destroy these women's lives. Or maybe after nap time in the faculty lounge, you can get around to civil defense drills to prep for an Iranian ICBM vaporizing our towns and cities due to the democratic party. Enjoy Election Night, educators. You should be well rested, since it's yet another day off that you have off on the taxpayer's dime.

Avivahall
October 30, 2016
6:27 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

It's funny that not one former Republican President or Secretary of State is supporting Trump. Are they liberal left wingers too? Or they just smart enough to know better? By the way Rob1986, Schenectady teachers work on Election Day. You should do your homework.

MikeJSilvestri
October 30, 2016
7:01 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

NYSUT endorses candidates based on their positions on public education and labor issues and not based on political party. That is why locally Republicans Elise Stefanik, Kathy Marchione, Elizabeth Little, Jim Tedisco, James Seward, Ken Blankenbush and Marc Butler were all endorsed by NYSUT is this election over their Democratic opponents.

Rob1986
October 30, 2016
7:39 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Hey Avivahall, enjoy Election Night, baby. Oh and don't tell the children the story of when in 1984 as first lady of Arkansas, at an Easter Egg Roll for mentally handicapped children, an aggitated Hillary Clinton rages, "When are these f----ng retards going to be done!" That's too hurtful language that our country can't afford. That's dangerous stuff. Give me a break.

FrankLowe
October 30, 2016
8:36 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Avivahall, The only two living Republican ex presidents share the last name of Bush. Bush, Clinton, Kennedy, Cuomo, Cheney are all interchangeable names shared by the Oligarchy. None of the entrenched, corrupt establishment power brokers on either side support Trump. You see, it was supposed to Hillary or Jeb's turn. The Republican voters overcame the corrupt kingmakers on their side, the Dem voters were unfortunately unable to overcome the predetermined outcome on their side.
If you are truly happy with the state of the federal government, and with those in charge, then Hillary's your person.

djbarney
October 31, 2016
7:13 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

.., his proposal to ban Muslims from the country…. Teachers who cannot get simple facts straight should remember that it better to be thought a fool than by opening one’s mouth remove all doubts as to their capabilities. In any case given the loss of life that is directly attributed to the rebels who claim that they are defenders of the faith I find ample justification for Trump’s view that Moslem immigrants should be allowed in this country only after serious vetting. Of course this matter would not be discussed if we were not busy creating Syrian refuges by hammering them in to choosing the government that we want for them!
Oh yes, have a nice day Fred Barney

bitjockey
October 31, 2016
7:13 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Do they talk to students about how their votes in the presidential race don't mean squat because this myopic, single-minded electorate in NYS always votes for the Democratic candidate? Last time they didn't was Reagan.

geneshan2
October 31, 2016
7:26 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Why is it that inappropriate language and issues that are well over ten years old would exceed the issues of endangering national security, taking millions from foreign governments and known people who want favors, operating a "foundation" that has elevated her daughter to millionaire status in a matter of a few years, a "foundation" theoretically created to help humanity (IF you have a FOB (friends of Bill) on the application) and her ever changing attitudes toward Wall St. I could go on. Neither candidate is squeaky clean but the non politician may enact enough changes to weed out a lot of the same old, same old ways of ruining, I mean running, our country.

mezz3131
October 31, 2016
7:59 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Hillary is a criminal and a liar. Do they teach that in school?

Avivahall
October 31, 2016
8:35 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Dearest Rob, I will enjoy election night when the educated voters of America vote in the most qualified candidate, Hillary Clinton. You can be confident if the only news you get is from Fox and Rush, and the only poll you read is Rasmussen. You and the huge percentage of uneducated voters that support the GOP candidate will have to slink back into the racist, misogynist closet next Wednesday.

tfmck
October 31, 2016
9:15 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Have either of these great teachers shown their students videos of numerous Obama speeches where he divides our nation between people who agree with him and people who don't? Our Divider-In-Chief has done more to actually split this country into Us vs Them than any words uttered by Donald Trump. And while you're maligning one candidate, do you teach about how the political and economic power of the Ruling Class personified by the Clinton machine has corrupted the integrity of our government, much less the US Constitution? It's ironic that the Democrat party now considers "white non-college educated men" to be racist and misogynist supporters of Trump when 4 years ago they were "blue collar workers" and Democrats! The Democrats are now the Republicans of 30 years ago! They are the elite!

Avivahall
October 31, 2016
9:46 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Bush had ties to the Bin Laden's and profited hugely from Saudi oil money, Reagan sold weapons to Iran and funded illegal activities in Nicaragua. We don't know about every president but I'd guess they all made money from one group or another, and profited personally and professionally from ties to people and nations. Elite is a term defined as "A select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society." by Oxford. So, is that an insult? As for racist and misogynist, if I said I support ISIS, but don't like all of the violence would that make it ok? If you support a bigot you're ok with bigotry. Own it.

Rob1986
October 31, 2016
10:21 a.m.
(Comment was removed by moderator for not meeting the Daily Gazette's community standards.)
Avivahall
October 31, 2016
10:31 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Hah! 94 million not working, really? Ok 10 million of them are 16-19 years old. Another 38 million are over 65. Keep drinking the Kool-Aid. The actual number of 20-65 year olds that are truly unemployed is about 45 million, half of your Donald Trump quote. Still too many, but you wouldn't know because you live in your bubble where democrats are to blame for deficits, despite a GOP controlled House since 2010 and senate since 2013. Who passes the budget? Hmm??? Don't let facts get in the way of your partisan agenda.

Rob1986
October 31, 2016
11:02 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Highest under-employment since 1977...nice try

Avivahall
October 31, 2016
11:35 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Any actual data on under-employment in 1977? Or are you just making it up? Do you have a source for your claim?

Avivahall
October 31, 2016
11:42 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Participation rates have fallen since 2000 for three reasons, these are different than under employment. Three non-partisan reasons.
1) The aging of baby boomers. A lower percentage of older Americans choose to work than those who are middle-aged. And so as baby boomers approach retirement age, it lowers the labor force participation rate.

2) A decline in working women. The labor force participation rate for men has been declining since the 1950s. But for a couple decades, a rapid rise in working women more than offset that dip. Women’s labor force participation exploded from nearly 34 percent in 1950 to its peak of 60 percent in 1999. But since then, women’s participation rate has been “displaying a pattern of slow decline.”

3) More young people are going to college. As BLS (Labor Statistics) noted, “Because students are less likely to participate in the labor force, increases in school attendance at the secondary and college levels and, especially, increases in school attendance during the summer, significantly reduce the labor force participation rate of youths.”

So no matter who was president, and independent of the health of the economy, BLS projected in 2006 that labor force participation rates were going to go down.

Rob1986
October 31, 2016
2:05 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

you've got a lot of free time on your hand.....are you a teacher that retired at 55 with full gold plated benefits?

Avivahall
October 31, 2016
6 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Are you Rob? Are you a retired teacher? It sounds like you're jealous.

djbarney
October 31, 2016
9:06 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

You should note that Hillart,your candidate. has considerable success in handling the Middle East! We are in a position of making refugees in Syria by our support of a government that we want for the locals and being very proud of ourselves for our accommodation of our created refugees in this country. I do not think that on honest evaluation of her experience in foreign qualifies her for the presidency.
As for Trump’s wall I suggest that you review the fundamentals on negations. If you do you will see that they always begin with the parties establishing extreme positions from which they invariable retreat from in their attempt to achieve an agreement.
As for Trump’s bigotry I suggest that you reflect on minority set asides. In today’s world some bigotry is good and some is bad. For your point about Trump’s bigotry to stand requires an explanation of why his bigotry is bad
Oh yes, have a nice day. Fred Barney

ChuckD
October 31, 2016
11:16 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

djbarney, you sound like a blithering idiot.
In the weeks after the election Mr. Trump has 2 dates in court. One for racketeering concerning his scam university and the other for alleged child rape. That's a fact, it's on the record and it'll be big in the news.
And I think you meant to say "negotiations".
Sheesh, get an education.

Rob1986
November 1, 2016
1:07 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

yah, I'm real jealous of teachers sucking the taxpayers dry.

Rob1986
November 1, 2016
1:08 p.m.
(Comment was removed by moderator for not meeting the Daily Gazette's community standards.)
joseph4700
November 2, 2016
1:01 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

You are TEACHERS. Look at the FACTS. She lied to Congress, She Lied to the FBI. She Lied about being Broke. She Lied about Her E-Mails. THOUSANDS and Thousands MORE were found. She was in one of the highest positions in OUR Country. SHE LIED. "YOU MEAN WITH A CLOTH" She really thinks were are Dumb. When the FBI Director was questioned about her answers. There were ALL Lies. Hilary is a professional Liar, Cheating, taking credit for other peoples ideas. She and her people even Cheated Bernie. Just because she is a woman you are going to vote for this phony, selfish, cheating person. Put her out to pasture. Or send her to Cuba to Roll Cigars. HILARY is not a people person. She can not be trusted. Facts are facts. Look at them. Open your EYES. She is a Crook. Lies, Lies, Lies thats all she does is lie. Trump is the man for President. Trump! Trump. Thank you.

Avivahall
November 2, 2016
7:30 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Rob and Joseph, you, Chachi and the KKK are all great examples of Americans for Trump. You can all crawl back into your racist closets in a week. But you have been exposed.

Rob1986
November 9, 2016
9:45 p.m.
(Comment was removed by moderator for not meeting the Daily Gazette's community standards.)
ChuckD
November 9, 2016
11:07 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Let me guess, you're around 13 years old.
Am I right?

Rob1986
November 10, 2016
3:17 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Hey ChuckD.......Enjoy the reversing of the last 8 years of this country's destruction......and also being the pivot man with Avivahall

Rob1986
November 10, 2016
3:40 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

One other thing ChuckD.....I would bring the level of discourse up a few grade levels for you, but since the average Democrat has a 4th grade reading level, I wanted you to be able to join in. Enjoy!

ChuckD
November 10, 2016
9:53 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Wow, its like you want to help me make my point. Thanks, but I bet you don't even realize it.
Funny though, as I sit here hearing about all the Trump/Russian connections:
Personal business ties (that we know about).
Business ties between Russia and members of who he's pulling into his inner circle.
Admission by Russia of not only hacking into the Dems' computers, but coordinating with Trump staff.
The open man-crush between Trump and Putin.
You may put a Trump happy face on that and say at least we're in contact and good foreign policy. Most Americans would call that treason, just as most Americans did not choose him.
And I have never been a Democrat.

Rob1986
November 11, 2016
3:15 a.m.
(Comment was removed by moderator for not meeting the Daily Gazette's community standards.)
schdyres1
November 11, 2016
11:58 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Why is the Gazette printing views that are personal attacks, and include name-calling? The TU has rules that would not allow this, and for good reason.

cidbil
November 11, 2016
1:40 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

"Why is the Gazette printing views that are personal attacks, and include name-calling? The TU has rules that would not allow this, and for good reason."

Having had posts deleted, I do know the Gazette does have a policy about this. They seem to be selective in their enforcement though.

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