The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Watchmen Founder Wants High School Teachers Fired

By Casey Sanchez on February 21, 2008 - 9:04 am, Posted in Anti-LGBT, Christian Right

A founder of Watchmen on the Walls, an international organization that is ferociously anti-gay, isn’t who Hatewatch would choose to speak at an MLK day event. But that’s what happened on Jan. 17, when the Rev. Ken Hutcherson spoke at Mt. Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash.

At the student-planned assembly, Hutcherson, founder of a Seattle-area megachurch, was booed by English teacher George Potratz. Kit McCormick, an adviser for the school’s Gay/Straight Alliance club, asked Hutcherson how he could admire Dr. King but fight against civil rights for homosexuals. “I think her deal was that I don’t believe in equal rights for everybody,” Hutcherson told a reporter later. During his speech, Hutcherson talked about growing up as a black man in the South.

Last week, school principal Randy Taylor disciplined the teachers for their actions with a letter that will be included in their personnel files. But for Hutcherson, that’s not enough. He told the American Family Association that he wants the teachers fired.

The reverend, who refers to the school’s Gay/Straight Alliance as “a sex club,” wrote, “It’s time we wake up and realize we are in a culture WAR!” He claims the questions and boos from the two teachers embarrassed him; Hutcherson’s daughter is a student in one of Potratz’s classes.

Declarations of war are nothing new for Watchmen members. In one of the group’s videos, a Watchman activist puts it like this: “Your generation beat the Nazis, and our country beat the Communists. Together we will defeat the homosexuals!”

Both teachers say they are working with their union to contest the disciplinary letters. They’ve also been offered pro bono legal support from the Human Rights Commission and the National Organization for Women. A parent-run group is organizing in support of the two teachers and posts daily updates about the Hutcherson situation on its blog.

  • JoeBuddha

    I don’t have any problem matching rudeness with rudeness. This guy is a bigoted ass and proud of it. If there’s anything ruder, I don’t know what is. For him to be giving a presentation on MLK day is the height of rudeness and hypocrisy.

    What I DO have a problem with is this notion that those of us who believe in the rights of all people having to bite our tongues and be ever polite regardless of provocation. This person should be booed off every stage he tries to occupy.

  • Armenian Genocide

    Weathermen like Bill Ayers? Wow interesting!

  • Carter

    Booing the speaker was an example of acting out in a manner that would be inappropriate in another setting. Regardless of the distasteful product of the speaker’s bigotry, that teacher then has to realize that they are setting examples for the students. If he doesn’t want acting out in his classroom then he should take an inventory of what example he sets. It’s when the target is an easy one that it’s tough to maintain standards.
    Oh I forgot, he was not being paid during that time, so it sets it all to right. When a social worker is off the jobs, it’s OK for them to punch a drunk. GROW UP. I should not even have to explain this concept to an adult.
    Mick -You think that more and more money will solve this then obviously YOU are the one who knows nothing about teaching….Perhaps it’s time for you to find another profession if that is what you do for a living.
    However the discussion deals with schools in the USA which receive more and more funding and provide a poorer product than ever before. Perhaps this is an example of your “complex interrelationship between policymakers and teachers”? If so comments such as yours reveal the knee jerk defensiveness that does not allow for formative self-evaluation.
    It sounds like YOU are the one with a case of “BURN OUT”, my friend. Do your students a favour and find a job that stresses you less. It’s obviously the ethical thing to do in your case.

  • JoeBuddha

    I think he deserves exactly the respect he gives everyone else. He’s a bigot and an ass, and should NEVER have been allowed to talk to a class about ANYTHING. Think of the uproar if a KKK Grand Wizard were to speak at any highschool about anything.

  • Mick

    Carter, I can’t speak for the American system, but from the perspective of an Australian schoolteacher it sounds like you don’t know what the hell your talking about.
    Our schools are better funded than yours, but underfunded areas exist and this does impact on ones ability to teach effectively. Your “blame the teachers” approach comes, as it usually does, from a lack of understanding as regards pedagogy, teaching and the complex interrelationship between policymakers and teachers.
    Frankly I’d like to take you and any other number of “backseat driver” teachers, and place them in a year 9 class of thirty teenagers on the last period on a friday afternoon in an underfunded school with no air conditioning and let you run the class. We’ll see how long you last; perhaps you can lead by example and show us how to do our jobs better?
    Teaching whether its in the USA, Australia or anywhere else is a legal minefield and no one knows this better than practicing teachers. It’s not hard to get rid of teachers, the hard part is keeping them in the profession.
    Burnout, low pay and more lucrative career options are the real things driving down educational standards in western industrialized democracies as teachers leave the profession and are replaced by newer more inexperienced teachers.
    There are many possible reasons for legitimately wanting to remove teachers, fraud, sexual misconduct, incompetence etc. But speaking out when “off the job” is not one of them, teachers are people too, they should be afforded the same rights to freedom of speech as anyone else.
    Booing a homophobic speaker is not merely legitimate, it is positively healthy for a schoolteacher. We have to be polite and courteous every minute of our professional lives to hostile teenagers, angry parents and self-interested administrators, we are allowed to offend exactly no-one. Every once in a while we should be able to call a spade a spade, the speaker deserved to be booed, so he was!

  • Carter

    One thing that is terribly difficult is getting ANY teacher fired. That won’t happen. The big-picture issue is why are teachers not teaching the core curriculum and allowing American schools to become what essentially are “day-care” providers instead of teaching institutions?
    Our public schools are a disgrace. When we compare the schools in the USA to schools in the EU the difference is glaring! The gay issue aside for a moment, they are NOT doing the job of teaching. Students are continuing to be undereducated. Teachers are untouchable. They represent a privileged class of worker and are allowed to continue to provide a very poor product.
    Very few parents in America are satisfied with public schools. The teachers continue to cry “more money” but even with higher and higher spending the classroom is a disgrace. Let teachers rationalize & intellectualize the fact that the nation sees them as greedy & essentially corrupt.

  • Dan

    Barb – They weren’t rude. They didn’t boo. Their question was relevant to the discussion and most appropriate.

  • unlucky 13

    It’s funny that people who want to harm gays would need the image of someone like Dr.King in an attempt to justify their own sordid need to discriminate.I don’t remember that Dr.King believed in discriminating against anyone.That is because dr.king spent so much time and effort speaking and acting to end all discrimination.

  • Barb

    You have to remember that his church is against homosexual sexual relationships. If the minister was talking about growing up black and telling about that experience and what he’s learned, he should be allowed to do so. If he spoke against homosexuals, then object, but booing is rude.

    The question seemed appropriate for asking after the speech, but it is silly for the teacher to expect an answer that would satisfy him. This is a matter of faith. It is perfectly all right to point out the consequences of such a belief – it leads to hateful speech and actions against persons. This might make the speaker be more controlled in his speech making, but will not change his feeling that if you are engaging in sexual acts with someone of your sex, you are doomed to go to hell.

    Booing a speaker is a terribly rude thing to do and should not have been done. Instead, the teachers should have spoken to their classes about tolerance after the speech or checked out the invited speaker before the event and objected or spoken out at that time.

    Firing these teachers would be absurd. They were rude, not out of control. As for submitting a letter to the school newspaper before the event: asking that question was not out of line unless the asker interrupted during the speech, and I’ll bet a million, that the letter would never have been published.

    If these two end up with letters in their personnel files after all is done for them, they should insist that the specific thing they did: boo, ask a specific question – be included to show how utterly silly such a letter of discipline really is.

  • IludiumPhosdex

    No wonder, then, that homosexuality (and its supposed “moral danger”) is being trotted out as a “junk food” issue among Those Who Should Know Better in Indecision 2008….