A teacher at North Forsyth High School became the subject of a blog post on a conservative website questioning her choice of classroom speakers and accusing her of teaching anti-Semitic lessons.
Miranda Jones said she was told she did not violate Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools policies and said the article was written in response to her activism in the area.
On March 18, a post on First in Freedom Daily, a website that bills itself as North Carolina’s source for conservative news, politics, opinion, sports and culture, contained an anonymous article about Jones inviting Effrainguan Muhammad, who is a member of the Nation of Islam, into her classroom.
Jones said she was given permission to bring guests to her classroom as it was a part of her lesson.
The article said there were lessons or discussions that were anti-Semitic and it included a Feb. 8 post from Jones’ Facebook page that day showing a picture with the words “un-masking Satan” on a screen in the background. The article indicated the video had been watched in the classroom.
Jones said that is not what happened in her classroom.
“I pull up (the Nation of Islam website) to show the students that this is a source, a site that they can go to if they want to learn more about the Nation of Islam, but we didn’t watch that video,” Jones said. “I said we watched a video on YouTube of Minister (Louis) Farrakhan and the rapper Young Jeezy because we were talking about the Nation’s impact on the hip-hop community, particularly the black community.”
She said she believes the online article was a response to her activism surrounding the removal of the Confederate monument, topped by a statue of a soldier, in downtown Winston-Salem.
“None of this is about my teaching. I haven’t had any complaints,” Jones said. “This is because folks targeted me as a public school employee, and I’m a black woman, and I’m pro-black, and this is just a way to destroy my career because their statue was taken down.”
Jones said she received a subpoena that same day from an attorney for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the group working to keep the statue downtown.
Jones said she was not aware of the article until she was called to a meeting, which she said included Lionel Kato, an instructional superintendent for the school system, and Dionne Jenkins, the school system’s attorney.
“I didn’t know what was going on. I thought I was getting terminated,” she said.
“They sat down in a conference room, and they said, ‘We are sure you’ve seen this article by now.’ I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ They slid the article across the table to me. I read it rather quickly, and I said all of this is untrue.”
Jones said that, after talking with school system staff members and turning over lesson plans from that day, it became apparent no policies were violated.
She said she discussed that material in question with her class because of a book they were reading, titled “The Hate U Give.”
Jones said a large number of her students are African American males, and so she picks works and lessons that she feels are culturally relevant.
“The book references Malcolm X, the book references the Black Panther Party, that’s in the book,” she said.
Brent Campbell, the school system’s spokesman, would not talk about the scrutiny Jones said she faced, saying he could not comment on a personnel issue.
Jones said she plans to return to North Forsyth for the 2019-20 school year, but she has put in a letter of intent stating she would be resigning after the start of that year.
Jones said she believes all the principals in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools are likely to be aware of who she is because of media coverage of the statue and calls for its removal.
“And my fear is being blackballed, or just principals being fearful, they don’t want a teacher activist,” she said. “And so I don’t want to spin my wheels saying, ‘Well, should I go to this school, should I go to that school,’ and then never hearing back. I just feel like it’s not worth my time to do that here in this district.”
In the meantime, Jones said she will continue the work she has been doing.
“I also was clear with the district. I said, listen, I will continue to fight for black people. I will continue to fight for black children. My work is only going to intensify,” she said. “I will not back down in my pursuit of justice. And so that’s where I stand and that’s where I’m still at.”