Walled Lake teacher says Trump tweets led to firing; school district denies it
A Walled Lake teacher maintains he was fired after tweeting his support for President Donald Trump earlier this month, but the school district denies his support for Trump was the reason for his termination.
Justin Kucera, a 28-year-old social studies teacher and baseball coach at Walled Lake Western High School, said he was summoned to a Zoom meeting with district administrators and questioned about three tweets he sent July 6.
Kucera retweeted a Trump tweet, saying "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" and also tweeted:
"I'm done being silent. @realDonaldTrump is our president ... Don't @ me"
The latter tweet received several responses, including one that Kucera responded to with a tweet that said, "Liberals suck man." The tweet was later deleted.
A few days later, Kucera said he received an email from district supervisors asking him to attend a Zoom meeting about his tweets.
The Zoom meeting included Michael Lonze, assistant superintendent of human resources for Walled Lake Consolidate Schools, and Bradley Paddock, executive manager for human resources, as well as two union representatives, Kucera said.
When Kucera was asked about the context of the tweets, he said he agreed that schools should reopen in the fall and that he meant his tweet about Trump being president to be "unifying."
"I think we should be rooting for him to succeed because if the president succeeds we all succeed," he said.
The "liberals" tweet was meant sarcastically and was deleted a few hours after posting, Kucera said.
The teacher said he was pulled into a second Zoom meeting on Monday and told he could resign or be fired. When Kucera said he wouldn't resign, he was told his last day was July 17.
The Oakland County school district denied Kucera's story, saying "no disciplinary action was taken as a result of any support of President Trump." But the district declined more specific comment, citing confidentiality surrounding personnel matters.
The school district believes in "critical thinking," "positive discourse" and civil and respectful "community discussion," said Judy Evola, director of community relations for Walled Lake Consolidated Schools
"These are difficult times in our community and across our country," Evola said. "When issues arise, there’s a temptation to view items through the lens of our fractured political discourse. Walled Lake encourages students and staff members to engage each other with mutual respect and civility."
Kucera said he was told by the union that the tweets could be construed as impeding the business of the school, which would be grounds for firing, especially considering the school's title was listed on his Twitter page.
But he noted that other teachers have tweeted negative opinions against Trump and haven't received the same censure.
"It’s the equivalent of me sticking a Donald Trump sign in my yard," Kucera said of his tweets.
Within workplaces, Kucera said, "at any given point, half the people politically disagree with us. I just want to move into a climate where we can agree to disagree."
Kucera's story, first published by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, drew attention from state and national Republican leaders.
Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox called the story "incredibly disturbing" if true.
"No public employee should have to fear for their job because of their political beliefs," she said.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, a Michigan native, published Superintendent Kenneth Gutman's Twitter handle, email and phone number for people to ask him to explain the "disgraceful double standard."
"While liberal teachers in the school district went unpunished, a teacher was fired for expressing support for @realDonaldTrump," McDaniel said.