BURLINGTON — The Burlington Area School District has cleared the teacher who shared with students plans of traveling to Washington, D.C on the same day a mob stormed the Capitol building, on Jan. 6.
The school district announced the following day, on Jan. 7, that it had placed the teacher on administrative leave after a Burlington High School student came forward to question an assignment posted to the teacher's Google Classroom, a program used to share files between teachers and their students.
At the time, the district did not detail if the teacher participated in the riots. It has since been revealed the teacher's name is Jeff Taff.
In a statement released Thursday, the district said it hired investigator Saveon Grenell, an attorney with Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet, LLC, to look into the allegations.
Following an investigation, Grenell concluded to the district that the unnamed teacher did not violate district policies or state and federal laws. The investigator also concluded there is no evidence the teacher "engaged in any unlawful activity on January 6, 2021, while in Washington D.C."
The teacher will now return to teaching at Burlington High School this fall.
The district noted in its statement that school board policy 2240 addresses teaching on controversial issues, defining a controversial issue as “a topic on which opposing points of view have been promulgated by a responsible opinion.”
The district continued, "A discussion of current events in a high school level social studies course is consistent with the instructional goals of the class. The investigator learned that the specific resources that drew controversy, posted in the teacher’s Google Classroom, were supplemental and optional, not assignments."
The school district says it has met with the teacher in question to discuss recommendations offered in the investigator's report and reiterated "expectations moving forward." The teacher will participate in professional development "related to culturally responsive education," the district said. Finally, the teacher will meet with district administrators to discuss expectations for curriculum and the discussion of controversial topics.
Lawyers for the teacher, Jeff Taff, released a statement Thursday, writing:
"On behalf of Jeff and his family, I can assure you we are glad this matter is now concluded. Jeff looks forward to returning to the classroom next school year and continuing his career educating young men and women. We understand and appreciate that the District had an obligation to investigate the complaint it received. What is NOT appreciated is the hearsay, assumptions and outright lies the complaint was based on. The baseless complaint generally alleged: discrimination, sexism, racism, politicking, indoctrination, and mockery."
A parent who said her son was in one of the teacher's classes spoke to TMJ4 News following the January announcement of the incident. She said her son showed her the teacher's post about his plans to travel to Washington, D.C.
"There's this post on my Google Classroom, it just seems kind of weird," the parent said. "So I said, let me take a look, and I read it, and I couldn't believe what I was reading."
She said her son also showed her the teacher posted in an assignment a link to a YouTube video about President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani making false claims about illegal ballots.
Read the district's Thursday statement below: