Teachers under scrutiny for commenting on attacks

Unpopular remarks about the Sept. 11 attacks have caused twoprofessors, one from New Mexico and the other from California,to face punishment by their schools.

Richard Berthold, a tenured University of New Mexico historyprofessor, told a freshman class, "Anyone who can blow upthe Pentagon has my vote."

The statement, which he later apologized for saying, upsetstudents and caused state Rep. William Fuller, R-Albuquerque,to suggest that the university fire Berthold. Berthold said thatany attempt to fire him would violate his freedom of speech.

"I was a jerk," he told The Santa Fe New Mexican."But the First Amendment protects my right to be a jerk."

University President William Gordon also reprimanded Bertholdfor his remarks and is considering taking disciplinary action.

In Costa Mesa, Calif., a political science professor at OrangeCoast College has been placed on paid administrative leave afterfour of his students filed a complaint about his choice of wordsduring a class discussion.

Ken Hearlson told the Los Angeles Times that he startedhis lecture on Sept. 18 with an intentionally provocative question,"Why do Muslims condemn the terrorist attacks in New Yorkand at the Pentagon but never denounce terrorist attacks in Israel?"

Four Muslim students took the opening comments and some otherremarks Hearlson made during the class discussion to mean thathe was calling them terrorists and murderers.

According to the Times, the students claim Hearlsonpointed to three Muslim students and said, "It was you whoflew the planes into the World Trade Center. You are a terrorist."

Hearlson admitted to making the comments but said they werenot aimed at the Muslim students. He also said he apologized twiceto his class.

The administration has hired an outside agency to handle theinvestigation.

In another case, Pittsburgh Public Schools reinstated RooneyMiddle School substitute teacher John Gardner.

Gardner’s suspension was lifted on Sept. 21, a day after hewas escorted by police off school grounds for having written theremark "Osama bin Laden did us a favor" in the marginof a newspaper. Gardner had jotted the quote he had heard on televisionto remember it for a book he is working on titled "On theWings of Adversity."