I grew up in Small Town, Mississippi where everybody knows everybody and the "good ole boys club" system has been in place for generations. If you happen to be lucky enough to be apart of said club, expect some very special treatment. If you aren't in the club, expect a life of misery. Case in point, my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Reed Walters.
His methods may have been a bit unorthodox, compared to the other teachers, but I learned more in his class than any other.
When I was a sophomore, our school got destroyed by a tornado (luckily it was during spring break and no kids were there). We had nowhere to go to finish out our remaining nine weeks. Our town had just built a brand new shiny Super Wal-Mart, and the old Wal-Mart building was empty. Out of the kindness of their hearts (you can take that as sarcasm or not), the Wal-Mart corporation let us use their building for the remainder of the year.
Across the state and region we became the butt of many jokes. The students, and Mr. Walters took it all in stride. He wrote a song entitled Wal-Mart High School and it went viral throughout the area. He sold over 1300 CD's of the song to raise money for the Science Department. The song was heard on radio stations around the state and even featured on Paul Harvey. (If you'd like to hear the song, click here to view the CD, it's the second song listed.)
Mr. Walters was one of the few teachers in that high school that actually cared for the well being of his kids. I cannot begin to tell you influence the man had on me, and others I'm sure.
I could sing praises of Mr. Walters all day, but now I need to get to the meat of this post. Mr. Walters was fired a few months back for saying the word "ass" in front of a student. Yes, I agree it was wrong of him to use that language in front of a student and he's even said it was wrong and he regrets it. However, the following video is why I'm angry. This video is a series of clips of the West Jones High School football coach, Coach Pierson, in a nationally televised documentary about high school football rivalries. Just take a watch and a listen.
In the video Coach Pierson says the following:
Directly to a student, "Don't shut down, we expect a lot from you. If we weren't expecting a lot we wouldn't be riding your ass."
In general to a group of students, "We're gonna get our ass beat because we can't get locked in."
In front of students, "I'm scared I'll get a 15 yard penalty so I don't know where the hell I'm supposed to stand."
This was a nationally televised documentary. You can't tell me the school board/principals didn't watch the show and hear the language Coach Pierson uses in front of his football players. What makes that right? Why does football always get such special treatment? I was in choir all four years of high school. We got little, if any, support from the administration of the school or the school board.
The local news ran a story on this yesterday and here is a video of their newscast. I'll pick out some of the main quotes if you don't want to watch it.
School board member: "You're represented by a lawyer, aren't you?"
Mr. Walters: "Why can't we just sit man-to-man and talk?"
School board member: "Ethically I can't talk to you unless you have a lawyer."
Mr. Walters: "All I want is my last evaluation. I'll put it this way, these people are going to be heard, and I want to get my last evaluation. I'm going to sit right down here until it happens. I have been wronged, this is injustice. I've been done wrong and it's going to be righted sooner or later."
At this point Mr. Walters sits down where he is on the floor in front of the school board members. Apparently, this "disorderly" behavior makes the school board call the sheriff's office and have them send a deputy out to regain "order."
School board member: "What we're going to need to do is call the sheriff down here because we need to have order. This needs to be handled in a professional manner."
Mr. Walters: "You didn't handle my termination in a professional manner."
The deputy arrives, then leaves, and "order" is once again restored.
Mr. Walters: "These people should be heard, whether for or against me. It's the point of freedom of speech."
The board finished their meeting behind closed doors.
(Edited to add: Someone told me (random FB user, take this with a grain of salt because I honestly have no idea) that the school board member I'm quoting is actually the school board attorney. I can't find for sure one way or the other.)
Sadly, West Jones High School was never about academic excellence, it was always about athletic excellence. How many times you took the team to state was way more important than your grade point average. Students were treated differently by administration depending on whether you played sports, or were just your average kid.
Is it just my high school that has this problem? No, I doubt it. It's a problem with public schools across the country.
Apparently in the ten years Mr. Walters taught at West Jones, he either stepped on someone's toes or didn't get to know the right people. I'm outraged. He's right, this is injustice. Will anything change because of this? Will Coach Pierson lose his job? I sincerely doubt it.
Words cannot express how proud I am of Mr. Walters for standing up for his rights, the rights of others, and what he believes in. Mr. Walters still manages to teach others even when he's no longer employed with the school system. Thank you, Mr. Walters, for being such an influence on the young people of Jones County.
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