Taff believes further allegations are politically motivated
By Jason Arndt
Jeff Taff, the Burlington High School teacher who is on paid leave while the school district investigates what some contend are improper interactions with students, said this week in an exclusive interview his classroom instructions at the heart of the controversy were taken out of context.
Taff, who retained attorney Todd Terry to serve as advisor, said students and parents misinterpreted his initial message.
“The lessons and information for students…was totally taken out of context,” Taff said.
Taff, who has been on non-disciplinary, paid administrative leave since early this month, reportedly told students through Google Classroom – an online portal for students to study virtually – that he would not be in class from Jan. 5-7 and planned to use personal time to stand up for election integrity in Washington, D.C.
Taff, who looked to return to the classroom on Jan. 8, was in Washington on the same day a mob of rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol to protest Congressional verification of President Joe Biden’s, 306-232, Electoral College win over incumbent Donald Trump.
“Some of you will understand why! Some will not. I am sorry, but standing up for election integrity and our right to vote in FAIR elections is too important for me NOT to be there,” he wrote to students.
Taff, a history teacher, declined to elaborate on his initial concerns regarding “election integrity” and said he simply took a trip to Washington to exercise his First Amendment rights and witness history.
But, he said he does not condone the violence in Washington and wasn’t involved in breaching the U.S. Capitol building.
“I did not engage in any violence,” he said. “I did not go into the building.”
Terry, a former Burlington Area School District Board of Education member, said he is serving as Taff’s legal counsel to ensure Taff “gets a fair shake” in the investigation and that he receives proper due process.
“I think it just comes down to the political environment that we are in,” he said. “The district has a job to do and they are doing an investigation. We certainly don’t want to impede that.”
The Burlington Area School District continues to investigate Taff’s role in the posted lesson plan and additional allegations made by former students regarding the handling of other lessons.
The school district, which emphasized Taff used personal time for the Washington trip, stated on Jan. 11 the focal point of the investigation is the materials he shared with students and does not include what role he may have played in the protest.
“It may take some time to complete the investigation,” said Julie Thomas, Communications Coordinator of BASD. “After we initiated our preliminary review into the matter, others came forward with additional information to investigate. The district believes these are important issues that warrant thorough attention.”
The district, which has had ongoing discussions with Taff, said it is following policies and procedures to ensure due process.
Chantel Taff, Jeff Taff’s wife, issued a statement on social media earlier this week supporting her husband and said allegations made against him have been politically motivated.
The additional complaints, according to Chantel Taff, are based on one-sided assumptions and a false narrative that he is a white supremacist.
“They decided to cultivate complaints against Jeff in an effort to get him fired,” she wrote. “The narrative from them has asserted Jeff is a ‘violent white-supremacist racist that stormed the capital.’ Nothing could be further from the truth, both in actions and ideology.”
The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism, which acknowledged Taff has a right to his own political beliefs, responded to Chantel Taff’s statement shortly after it was posted.
The group alleges it has heard first-hand accounts of what it considers Taff’s negative/degrading statements ranging from right-wing economic theory without discussion, among a series of other claims.
BCDR further states there isn’t any political motivation in its accusations, adding some have felt uncomfortable with his instruction.
The group said its members are ‘alarmed’ because it believes Chantel Taff’s statements dismiss student concerns.
Editor’s note: This story has been edited since it was originally posted to correct an error.