Students at a Virginia middle school were assigned to conduct opposition research on the GOP presidential contenders and pass their findings along to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, according to a report in the Daily Caller.
Eighth graders in Liberty Middle School teacher Michael Denman’s class were reportedly instructed to “research the backgrounds and positions of each of the GOP candidates for president and find weaknesses in them.” From there, they were assigned to write a “strategy paper to exploit those weaknesses and then to send their suggestions to the Obama campaign.”
“This assignment was just creepy beyond belief — like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” one father at the Fairfax, Va. school told the Daily Caller.
The father — who asked the Daily Caller for anonymity — said he was “shocked” a teacher would “so blatantly politicize the curriculum,” and that no similar assignment was given to research Obama.
The assignment, which Denman gave to his civics honors class, reportedly had students split into four groups, one for each Republican candidate. The students were to conduct the research as a group, then to split off and have two write about the candidate’s weaknesses; two write a campaign strategy; and two find the relevant Obama re-election representative to receive their findings.
John Torre, a spokesman for the Fairfax County Public Schools system — located in a suburb of Washington, D.C. — told The Blaze in a telephone interview “no opposition research was gathered and forwarded to the [Obama] campaign.”
Students were merely instructed to research the candidates and to identify an applicable office or person within the Obama campaign who would receive such information — but not to actually pass it along, he said.
Despite a school district policy against involving students in political campaigns, Torre told the Daily Caller that Denman wanted to hold “a simulation activity with the intent of teaching students about the research process that a campaign committee goes through prior to an election.”
The father who spoke with the Daily Caller said the school received multiple phone calls from angry parents over the political nature of the assignment. Torre told The Blaze he didn’t know of any phone calls and hadn’t received any personally.
The school’s principal, Dr. Catherine Cipperly, has spoken with Denman about allowing students in future assignments to research candidates from whichever political party they choose, Torre told The Blaze.
“We’ve moved on,” he said.
The father, who described himself as conservative, said he has “no personal animosity” toward Denman, but that his behavior can’t go unchecked.
“Leave politics out of the classroom,” he said. “Present a balanced viewpoint, teaching children to listen to all sides and think for themselves.”