Update: The superintendent of the Dewey Public Schools district issued a statement Saturday distancing the district from the views of a high school teacher whose inflammatory Facebook comments spread across the internet late Thursday.
“Please understand that the expression of an opinion by any individual or group should not be viewed as the opinion of Dewey Public Schools and the Dewey community,” superintendent Vince Vincent said.
Vincent also said the district is “very aware of the sensitivity of the issues” and is investigating it.
“As always our goal is to provide a safe and secure place for the students of our district,” he said.
A Dewey High School teacher has come under fire on allegations that he posted inflammatory Facebook comments expressing hatred toward Muslims and outrage over same-sex marriage, prompting Oklahoma’s Council on American-Islamic Relations and others to call for the school district to discipline him.
BuzzFeed, a global news and entertainment company based in New York City, alleges in an article released late Thursday that history and government teacher Dan Close called Islam a death cult on his personal Facebook page.
BuzzFeed said it obtained copies of hundreds of Close’s Facebook posts covering several years from an Oklahoma tipster who wanted to remain anonymous, and the story said a former Facebook friend of Close’s verified the authenticity of most of them.
One screen shot shows a June 28 Facebook post in which Close apparently wrote: “Another Islam attack. Death cult. Happy Ramadan to everyone. Vote for Clinton if you want to appease the dog pigs. Vote for Trump if you want them butchered.”
Another post called President Barack Obama “Iman-in-Chief,” and more than one targeted same-sex marriage, calling it “disgusting, shameful.”
BuzzFeed said Close did not respond to interview requests.
Vince Vincent, superintendent of Dewey Public Schools, told the Tulsa World: “In response to your request today about the BuzzFeed article, we are aware of the story and have addressed it, but with it being a personnel matter, there is nothing more we can discuss.”
Veronica Laizure, civil rights director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, issued a statement Friday calling for the school district to censure Close.
“While we recognize that social media posts do not always reflect the views of an individual in his or her official capacity, it is shameful that an educator would choose to espouse such viciously biased, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic views,” Laizure said.
“We sincerely hope that the Dewey Public School District will not only discipline this individual, but will, more importantly, take steps to rectify this problem by embracing the diversity and cultural competency training offered by CAIR-OK and other local organizations,” she said.
Adam Soltani, CAIR-OK executive director, said in a Facebook post that it is “absolutely unacceptable that an educator in the state of Oklahoma would propagate hatred and bigotry towards Muslims and other minority groups. Teachers are responsible to be role models for our young, we must hold them accountable.”
Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said in a Facebook post Friday that Close “has engaged in horrific hate speech calling for the ‘butchering’ of religious minorities and calling LGBTQ individuals less than human. We can not allow someone who poses a clear and present danger to his non-white/non-Christian/non-hetero students to continue to work in a public school. We don’t allow students to harass, intimidate, and bully their fellow students, and we must not allow teachers to do so either.”
Close has a private Facebook profile, but shortly after the BuzzFeed article was published, a Facebook page titled “I support Dan Close” was created. It had gotten more than 500 followers by Friday evening.