By Steve Hunley

Last week’s Publisher’s Position brought a sure and swift reaction from a few members of the Bully Brigade. Were it not so pitiful, it would be laughable. One person asked on social media if my referring to some of the teachers protesting Governor Lee’s ESA bill as bullies was a hate crime under the law. Say what? Yes, you read that right. So, in other words, if a child in elementary school called another student a “bully,” the child just committed a hate crime. Really? And some of these folks are actually teaching your children. A member of SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educators All Across Knox County) is trying to enlist the protestors to contact our advertisers. One member of the Knox County Board of Education has texted me to say there is a special place in Hell reserved supposedly for people like me. Obviously, that particular board member is only representing a handful of teachers, not the people in their district. The person wondering about hate crimes is squalling and insisting on The Focus being removed from certain locations and evidently knows even less about free speech and freedom of the press than they know about hate crimes.

Let me be very clear: I will not be bullied, nor will I be intimidated. I believe the vast majority of teachers are responsible, hardworking people who are interested in their families, their communities and the children they teach. I find fault with some of the more extreme cases who don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad teacher. (I was actually told this by one of these folks.) I have been a businessman all of my life, but I would never claim that every businessman in the country was good, much less honest. However the vast majority are good and honest just like teachers. Any rational person realizes his or her profession, irrespective of what it might be, has some bad apples. One size does not fit all and any system which protects the bad along with the good is a terrible system.

The Knoxville Focus was the only media outlet in Knox County that took the side of the teachers about unfair evaluations by the State of Tennessee. It was The Knoxville Focus who was the only media outlet who dared to criticize former superintendent Jim McIntyre. The Focus has always tried to be fair to teachers and it is entirely possible for some teachers to simply be WRONG. They are entitled to their opinion just as I am entitled to mine. My own opinion is very clear: I think those teachers who oppose Governor Bill Lee’s Educational Savings Account legislation are not putting you or your children first. They are opposing your right to choose for yourself. Those teachers want to keep you and your child in a government-run monopoly school and keep in mind, the governor’s bill only affects those schools that are failing. The teachers and the school systems that operate failing schools haven’t fixed them yet and aren’t likely to fix them. The only “fix” they have to offer is raising your taxes and spending more money, a fix which hasn’t worked. In fact, many of our failing schools have some of the highest per pupil expenditures in Knox County.

Nobody has a monopoly on spewing vitriol and what I have experienced from the Bully Brigade is a little dose of what many of our state legislators have been exposed to over the last month. In fact, some teachers across Knox County were urging that they be given time off to hurry to Nashville to oppose the governor’s ESA legislation. Those same teachers urged Superintendent Bob Thomas to simply close school for a couple of days if he didn’t want to give them time off they hadn’t earned.

I can respect those with whom I disagree for having the courage of their convictions; I can especially admire those who can advocate for their positions and beliefs with integrity. The handful of folks I have referred to are not swathed in the purest white nor are they free from their very own special brand of bullying. My own experience simply confirms precisely what I said last week about the Bully Brigade.

I am reminded of the old adage: if the shoe fits, wear it.