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Burlington School Teacher On Leave After Telling Students He Was Going To Washington For ‘Stop The Steal’ Rally

Teacher's Lesson Plan Included Video Of Unfounded Voter Fraud Claims, Note To Students That He Was 'Standing Up For Election Integrity'

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside the U.S. Capitol
Supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Shafkat Anowar/AP Photo

A Burlington Area School District teacher has been suspended after telling students he was traveling to Washington, D.C. this week to participate in the “Stop the Steal” rally, which led to a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol and left five people dead.

Screenshots shared on social media purported to show a lesson plan from high school social studies teacher Jeff Taff that included a link to a video promoting unfounded election fraud claims and a note that he was taking time off from teaching to attend the gathering in Washington.

“I will be in Washington, DC,” wrote Taff. “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 to NOT be there.”

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After speeches by President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, some attendees of Wednesday’s rally rushed police lines and smashed their way into the Capitol. One rioter was shot and killed by police. A Capitol police officer later died from injuries sustained in an attack. Three other deaths were linked to the event.

A statement from the Burlington Area School District said that officials were “stunned” by the events at the Capitol and they condemned the actions that took place. Officials didn’t identify the teacher, but said they were investigating.

“We are aware that a district employee, a teacher at BHS (Burlington High School), shared with the teacher’s classes plans to travel to Washington D.C,” read the statement.

Officials said the district became aware after a student questioned an assignment posted in the teacher’s Google Classroom.

“The teacher has been placed on non-disciplinary administrative leave so that we can investigate the totality of the circumstances, as we have not yet had an opportunity to speak with this teacher,” said the statement.

Darnisha Garbade, president of Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism, said her group wants the teacher fired for including conspiracy theories in his lesson plan and his participation in the rally.

Garbade said beyond that, the district’s reaction to the teacher’s decisions has been more muted than the response district and school board officials had last fall when another teacher, Melissa Statz, included lessons about the Black Lives Matter movement in her curriculum. According to WDJT-TV in Milwaukee, controversy over the BLM instruction led parents to call for Statz’s resignation and lengthy and a heated school board meeting.

“The school’s reaction to this is nowhere near what it was in response to Melissa teaching the Black Lives Matter curriculum,” said Garbade. “And I think that that just further goes to show what we’ve been fighting for in Burlington with the school district for a long time.”

Garbade said there have been numerous instances of racism within the Burlington Area School District that have gone largely unresolved.

“So, it’s no surprise to me that when they have a teacher so far, right wing and who’s so bold and blatant that they aren’t taking immediate action to, first of all, fire this teacher, secondly, to, you know, denounce it and create such an uproar about it,” Garbade said. “You know, like they did when Melissa taught the Black Lives Matter curriculum.”

The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism has filed a discrimination complaint with the district, said Garbade. She said she hasn’t gotten a response back at this time.

A district spokesperson said there would be no further comment beyond the statement released Thursday. Interview requests with BASD school board members weren’t returned.

An interview request sent to Taff wasn’t returned.