MIDDLETON, WI— Wisconsin used to be a fairly liberal place to live. After all, it sent Sen. Russ Feingold back to Washington three times, even though he voted against Bill Clinton’s impeachment, against the USA PATRIOT Act and against beginning the War in Iraq. (Even today, it continues to reelect gay Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a progressive and strong supporter of women’s rights.) Back in the ’60s and ’70s, students at both the Madison and Ann Arbor campuses of the University of Wisconsin (UW) were strongly anti-war, and prevented Dow Chemical Corp., manufacturer of napalm, from holding job fairs on campus.
But sadly, those days are gone. Feingold has been replaced by a Republican, Ron Johnson; Rep. Paul Ryan (R) has become the darling of House conservatives, having authored a budget bill that would destroy Medicare as we know it, and as recently as last year, the UW’s Madison campus tried to cancel a panel of anti-war speakers because they hadn’t paid an unconstitutional “security fee.”
And then, of course, there’s Gov. Scott Walker who, after giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to small businesses, claimed that the state was going broke, and demanded that public employee unions give up their collective bargaining rights—a move that led to six Republican state senators facing recall elections over the next few months—and while still in office, passing laws to make it more difficult for students and other to vote, cut hundreds of millions of dollars from state Medicaid services, expand costly school voucher programs, and make it easier to carry a concealed weapon.
So … one might think, with all of Wisconsin’s money woes, the Middleton-Cross Plains School Board might have thought twice before renewing its attempts to fire science teacher Andrew Harris, seven other high school teachers and one school administrator simply because the district had discovered porn and “other inappropriate adult content, including nudity and sexual jokes,” among their emails during the fall of 2009—especially if that fight were going to cost the school district over $300,000 in legal bills.
“Harris was first put on paid leave on Dec. 3, 2009, while the School District investigated him and other staffers for accessing porn and other inappropriate adult content using the district’s email system,” wrote Gena Kittner for the Madison.com website. “A month later Harris was put on unpaid leave and in May 2010 the School Board voted to fire him. The union challenged his dismissal along with other disciplinary steps taken by the School Board, and since then both sides have spent a year in arbitration, listening to testimony, which ended on May 2.”