Durham County

Durham teachers in photo re-enacting Confederate statue toppling were competing for Krispy Kreme doughnuts

A.P. Dillon, co-founder and managing editor of American Lens, tweeted this photo of School for Creative Studies teachers re-creating the toppling of the downtown Confederate statue.
A.P. Dillon, co-founder and managing editor of American Lens, tweeted this photo of School for Creative Studies teachers re-creating the toppling of the downtown Confederate statue.

A group of Durham Public Schools teachers who posed for a photo re-enacting the toppling of a Confederate statue in Durham were competing for doughnuts.

The post, circulated on social media, showed a dozen people at The School for Creative Studies holding yellow crime-scene tape, like the yellow strap used to bring down the monument on East Main Street earlier this month.

They appear to be kicking what looks like a classroom skeleton, in imitation of the protesters who kicked the Confederate statue after toppling it during a demonstration in response to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. Eleven people have now been arrested in connection with the Aug. 14 incident.

Bryan Proffitt, president of the Durham Association of Educators (DAE), said the photo first appeared on the association’s Facebook page.

Proffitt said he removed the photo a couple of hours after it appeared after a call from school district officials who expressed concern about the subject matter.

“I got a call from the school district and they had concerns, so instead of letting it sit, I deleted it,” Proffitt said.

He said the photo was posted as part of “Red for Ed,” a weekly “morale builder” for educators across the state.

In Durham, Proffitt delivers Krispy Kreme doughnuts to the teachers whose photo gets the most “likes” on the DAE Facebook page.

“It’s important to understand the context of the photo,” Proffitt said.

In response to critics who have questioned the use of the school setting for such a photo, Proffitt said the photo was taken after school hours and that the teacher who took it used a personal cell phone camera.

A Durham Public Schools spokesman also confirmed that the photo was taken after school hours and was not part of a class.

Proffitt also noted the school board passed a resolution in February 2016 affirming employee free speech rights.

The resolution reads in part: “The Durham Public Schools Board of Education recognizes that public school teachers, administrators and classified staff in North Carolina have free speech rights protected by the First Amendment, as long as the speech does not adversely impact the functioning of their public school.”

Video: A ladder and tow strap were used to swiftly pull a Confederate statue to the ground during an ‘Emergency Durham Protest’ at the old Durham County Courthouse in response to the violent protests Saturday in Charlottesville, on Monday, Aug. 14

In a statement issued Wednesday, DPS Superintendent Bert L’Homme also took note of the “free speech” resolution.

“The Durham Public Schools Board of Education and I strongly support the free speech rights of DPS employees as reflected in the Board’s February 2016 resolution,” L’Homme said.

But L’Homme said the “photo is not a reflection of official Durham Public Schools or The School of Creative Studies policies or positions.”

The SCS is a Durham Public Schools magnet school for students in grades 6-12. It operates on a year-round calendar, and students returned to classes July 17.

Attempts to reach school administrators and staff for comment were not successful Wednesday.

Cristina Laila posted a story about the photo on the Gateway Pundit site.

“The teachers in the image were mimicking the alt-left protesters who destroyed a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina in mid-August,” she wrote.

Laila’s post has a photo of protesters kicking the Confederate monument in Durham, and compares the protesters’ actions with the teachers’ actions.

“Taxpayers must demand that the teachers involved, all the way up to the Principal and Superintendent are held accountable,” she wrote. “These people are teaching young students that dressing like Antifa terrorists and destroying property is acceptable.”

A.P. Dillon, co-founder and managing editor of American Lens, also tweeted the photo from her Twitter feed.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645