A teacher by the name of Stuart Mantel in the Brick Township School District in New Jersey went ballistic back in February when one of his students refused to stand for the National Anthem. When screaming at the student didn’t bring compliance Mantel grabbed his chair and literally yanked it out from underneath him. What Mantel didn’t realize was that another student was recording the whole altercation on his camera phone and later released the video on the web.
The class started out that morning with Mantel yelling “I don’t want to hear a sound! Not a sound! Morning exercises will come on, you will stand, you will stand quietly, you will pay attention! Any Questions!? … Now stand up and keep your mouths shut!” Students stood up as the national anthem began playing.
In the middle of the anthem, Mantel walked over to Jay and demanded that he stand up. Jay silently refused, and Mantel yelled again, “Stand up!” Jay then said “I don’t have to stand up.” To which Mantel insisted “You have to stand.” Jay said, “No I don’t.” Mantel then reached over and pulled Jay’s chair out from under him. Jay responded to Stuart Mantel’s outrageous behavior by asking Mantel “Are you serious?”, to which Mantel yelled “I am damn well serious.”
According to some of the students, Mantel is known for having anger management issues and has gotten very upset over any disrespect students show for the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance many times in the past. The student who recorded the video clip had brought the camera specifically to catch Mantel if he blew up again. Given what’s seen on the tape you might assume that the school district disciplined the teacher or at least informed him of the fact that there have been many court rulings establishing a student’s right to sit quietly rather than be compelled to stand during the pledge or the anthem, but you’d be mistaken.
According to the account given on the IndyMedia site where the video was posted, the teachers and principal wanted Mantel to press charges against Jay and another student by the name of Corey on the grounds that they had violated Mantel’s Constitutional rights by taping him without permission arguing that the students had set Mantel up. A third student, Steve, who did the recording was suspended for 10 days for his part in this misadventure. The students claim Mantel wasn’t disciplined at all.
Yesterday Schools Superintendent Thomas L. Seidenberger issued a statement to the Asbury Park Press that says “not all details cited on the Internet regarding this incident are factual” without going into any further details.
District spokeswoman Jennifer Strano declined to say whether anyone had been disciplined, but said “appropriate administrative action” had been taken. School officials also would not identify “Jay” or the student using the camera phone.
So, what did they say they were planning to do?
“We as a Board of Education realize that we are ushering a new era and will be forced to review our policies and perhaps enforce a more stringent districtwide policy regarding electronic recording devices in the classroom,” Seidenberger added.
Strano said each school in the district has a policy prohibiting the use of wireless phones in school during school hours.
In the statement, Seidenberger said he may ask the school board to adopt a stricter policy. He also said he may ask the board to consider developing a policy regarding unauthorized taping.
That’s right, they’re going to try and make sure nothing that embarrasses the district like this will ever happen again. We can’t have students standing up for their rights, after all, that would be bad.
Granted, the video clip that’s been released doesn’t give one a whole lot to make judgments about what sort of people the students or the teacher happen to be. It’s entirely possible that these kids have been a thorn in the side of this teacher for a while and it’s also possible that the teacher is a major asshole who needs to take a chill pill or three. It does seem that Mr. Mantel has a problem with getting the respect he feels he should from his students and has resigned himself to trying to force that respect from his class. I had a couple of teachers like that when I was going through school and, in my experience at least, that approach never worked. If anything, it resulted in open disrespect from kids who normally wouldn’t go out of their way to be disrespectful.
Regardless, Mantel’s forcing the student to stand was a violation of the student’s right to quietly sit for whatever reasons he had for doing so. This is exactly the sort of problem I and others have said would come from all these laws being passed by knee-jerk patriots who think that mandating schools to start the day with the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance is going to somehow magically instill respect for this country or its government in the kids being forced to participate.