Teacher's Nazi Comments 'Free Speech'

School district says teacher exercised First Amendment rights in a speech in which he drew parallels between Nazi Germany and U.S.

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

Children in school (illustrative)
Children in school (illustrative)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Pennsylvania school district says a teacher was exercising his First Amendment rights during a speech in which he drew parallels between Nazi Germany and the United States under President Barack Obama.

Spring Cove School District officials say no disciplinary action will be taken against teacher Philip Waite for comments he made at a July 1 Tea Party rally in Blair County, The Huffington Post reported. 

Democrats criticized Waite for the speech, in which he likened federal governmental power to Nazism.

Waite said Adolf Hitler was a "slick, quick talker" who told citizens, "You don't need to worry about responsibility."

Speaking after Waite, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith said he spoke "eloquently" but later called his comments "divisive and beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse."

Waite's 45-minute speech on executive power, given at a July 1 Blair County Tea Party rally, led to criticism from state Democrats, attention from a national news website and a handful of "hate emails."

However, despite allegations that Waite compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, Spring Cove School District officials have said it's not a classroom concern.

"People do have freedom of speech in the public arena," Superintendent Robert Vadella said. "That's what we teach the kids."

Waite maintained that the article oversimplified his words.

"I'm not saying President Obama agrees with what Adolf Hitler stood for," Waite said. "It really makes it sound extremely hateful."

Vadella said accusations of teaching bias are not taken lightly, but as long as Waite's opinions do not cross the line into offensiveness and remain outside the classroom, there won't be repercussions, a local paper reported.

"The public arena is a free arena," he said. "At this point, what happened this summer is not an issue here."