Ohio Teacher's "Black President" Comments Open Door for Firing

By Chris Hoenig

An Ohio teacher is fighting to keep his job after allegedly telling a Black student that “we do not need another Black president.

Gil Voigt was suspended without pay by Butler County school officials after being accused of making the comment to a student at Fairfield Freshman School. The suspension is the first step in firing Voigt.

But Voigt, a graduate of Ohio University, has denied making the remark, instead claiming to school officials that he said, “I think we can’t afford another President like Obama, whether he’s Black or white.” He claims that his accuser was troublesome in class and not a very good student, though the Fairfield Assistant Superintendent who conducted the initial investigation said that other nearby students heard the remark and corroborated the accuser’s story.

In a statement to school officials, Voigt requested a hearing and wrote that his comment was not meant to be taken as a racially charged remark. “There was no way I was trying to indicate the color of [Obama’s] skin had anything to do with his politics,” Voigt wrote. A mediator from another county will hear from both sides before making a nonbinding recommendation to the Fairfield Board of Education. “Unless there’s some sort of agreement reached, I wouldn’t expect this to be over before the end of the school year,” said John Clemmons, the attorney for the school district.

Teacher Has a Mixed History

Voigt’s work history includes a series of red flags, including accusations of racist remarks in the past.

He received a written warning from Fairfield officials in April 2008 after allegedly directing a laser pointer to a Black student’s nose and calling him “African-American Rudolph.” He was also issued a written warning last month for failing to use the proper curriculum, and received verbal warnings last year after calling students “stupid” and “gay.”

Despite the allegations, he has received the second-highest rating for teachers in Fairfield, where he was worked since 2000.

Prior to arriving at his current district, Voigt had a similarly checkered past with Cincinnati Public Schools, where he taught from 1994 to 2000. He had an unsatisfactory review mixed in with otherwise good evaluations, but was written up in 1996 for leaving school early while he was supposed to be teaching.

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