State News

Cumberland teacher gets reprimand for political comments

Posted November 30, 2008
Updated December 1, 2008

— A Fayetteville teacher whose classroom comments about John McCain drew the ire of viewers who saw the remarks on YouTube says she has received a disciplinary letter.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that Diatha Harris also said an internal investigation cleared her of violating state law or Cumberland County Board of Education policy.

In May, a Scandinavian film crew captured Harris leading a classroom discussion about the presidential election among her fifth-graders at McArthur Elementary School.

The video aired in a documentary on Finnish television in November, and portions were posted on YouTube. Superintendent Bill Harrison was deluged with phone calls for Harris to be fired.

The video shows that when student Cathy Thompson said she was backing McCain because her parents were, Harris responded, "Oh, Lord." She later called the war in Iraq "senseless" and told the girl that McCain planned to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years, if necessary.

"That means your daddy could stay in the military for another 100 years," Harris told the girl, who silently bit her lip.

Harris said the comments on the video were taken out of context and edited to make her look bad, but she apologized to the student and her parents.

"I was wrong for saying that. I was truly wrong for saying that, but I would do nothing on this Earth to hurt this child," Harris said in an interview with WRAL News when the video broke on YouTube.

A second Cumberland County teacher, Melissa Smith, was also being investigated after a parent complained she made disparaging comments about Barack Obama to students at Mac Williams Middle School. A decision had not been reached in that case.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • demo7691 Dec 1, 2008

    Why dont the NAACP have a outrage about this letter in her file. They have a fit about every other minute thing that is said and or done toward thier race. If a white teacher would have said this about Obama they would be still protesting. Talk about racist the NAACP is a group of them and they complain about everyone else doing it.

  • beposs Dec 1, 2008

    kopfjaeger2001 --- You "hit the nail right on the head."

    As far as the NAACP, they do far more harm than good. If there were an NAAWP (white), NAAAP (Asian), NAAEP (European), or an NAAAI (American Indians), etc., and these groups yelled, threatened, and protested as much as the NAACP does our nation would be so divided and crippled it could not stand. The NAACP needs to stop trying to trip up America and start trying to be a part of the solutions to our many problems. For example, try holding people accountable for the decisions they make and the actions they take instead of crying race and making excuses all the time. This is really getting old and causes much more harm than good.

  • kopfjaeger2001 Dec 1, 2008

    I send my kids to school to get education, not someones political viewpoints. Why do liberals/Dems have no problem pushing their political agenda in schools, but rail against prayer in school? Politics and religion need tostay out of schools and more focus on teachers doing what they're paid to do, teach.

  • strawberrysw4 Dec 1, 2008

    If this was a white teacher, and something negative was said about Obama, the NAACP would have been all over this!

  • SANDHILL Dec 1, 2008

    I guess the Cumberland county school board is afraid of the NAACP so Harris gets a slap on the wrist. Now if they fire Smith, we will know the rest of the story.

  • Adelinthe Dec 1, 2008

    This is right and just.

    Personal agendas have no place in public classrooms.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • johnny2times Dec 1, 2008

    What would have happend if it was a white teacher talking about Obama?...The NAACP would be ALL over this. Where is the NAAWP at?????? Funny how that works.

  • Garnerwolf1 Dec 1, 2008

    Not sure why a Scandinavian file crew was doing in a Cumberland Co classroom, but how dumb do you have to be to make controversial political statements to a bunch of young kids knowing you are being filmed? She should be fired on that basis alone!

  • smalldogsrule Dec 1, 2008

    look at the schools name, MacArthur (military leader, historic,US). ???????????????

    Just so you know travised, the school is MARY Macarthur, named after a VERY distinguished Cumberland County Educator.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 1, 2008

    Thanks SME2