Editorials

Political Discourse in the Classroom

EDUCATION

Pa. GOP chair blasts Central HS teacher for ‘liberal indoctrination’

Val DiGiorgio, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Republican Party and a 1985 graduate of Philadelphia’s storied Central High, is concerned.

A teacher at his alma mater is engaging in “liberal indoctrination,” DiGiorgio said in an interview Wednesday.

He appealed directly to Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., asking the Philadelphia School District to investigate whether the Central High social studies department chair had engaged in political activity in violation of district policy.

Lee Whack, a spokesperson for the district, said an investigation is forthcoming.

A handout the Pennsylvania GOP says was given to Central High students.

A flier, which a former Central classmate of DiGiorgio’s passed on to him, urges students to vote for a long list of reasons, including “VOTE to stop Republican voter suppression” and “VOTE to stop the Trump regime.” DiGiorgio said the flier was given to students by Thomas Quinn, a teacher at the school.

The district’s employee handbook warns against political activity. “The use of pupils for writing or addressing political material or the distribution of such material to or by pupils is forbidden,” it reads.

DiGiorgio said he had many liberal teachers at Central, but “they didn’t try to indoctrinate us. They encouraged debate.” (In those days, he said, the debate was mostly about Frank Rizzo and W. Wilson Goode.)

“This flier was a blatant attempt not just to indoctrinate, but to impart something that’s hateful, that contains lies,” DiGiorgio said. “Referring to the president’s administration as the Trump regime — that’s outrageous.”

DiGiorgio sent the letter Tuesday, and said he had gotten no immediate reaction from Hite or anyone else at the district, but he made clear in a letter to the superintendent that “this is a very serious matter.”

“How would a student, outspoken about their support for conservative views, feel about being in Mr. Quinn’s class?” DiGiorgio wrote. “Being graded by him?”

He said he had yet to bring the matter to the attention of his sister, Maria McColgan, a member of the new Philadelphia school board.

Whack, the schools spokesperson, referenced the district edict concerning employees’ political activity.

“We take this policy seriously and, as Nov. 6 nears, we will remind our employees of this policy,” Whack said.