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Our Opinion: Nathan Street's curious detour into a dark corner

Our Opinion: Nathan Street's curious detour into a dark corner

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The director of fine arts for Guilford County Schools has lost a new job in Roanoke, Va.

The question now is what happens to his old job?

Three days after announcing that Nathan Street would be its new supervisor of performing arts, effective July 1, Roanoke County Public Schools withdrew the offer.

A district spokesman would only say that the school system’s change of heart had been “due to new information.”

That “new information” appears to concern provocative posts on a personal website maintained by Street and his wife, as well as on social media.

Some members of the Roanoke community uncovered the posts and began to share them.

As the News & Record’s Jessie Pounds reported Wednesday, the tweets included “#CivilWar,” which was posted following the 2020 presidential election. Another post included the phrase “Heels-up Harris the Whore,” in an apparent reference to Vice President Kamala Harris.

The website also contains links to articles authored by Street that take positions that are inappropriate for a public educator, if not downright offensive.

In one article he suggests that the parents of a transgender first-grader who supported the child’s gender preference should lose custody of the child because of “child abuse.”

Street would not tell the News & Record who wrote the tweets on the couple’s Twitter account, called “Street’s Corner.” Nor would he comment on a Roanoke Times article about the status of his application for the Roanoke job.

But he should address them and hold himself accountable for whatever part he played both in the posts on Twitter and the website.

The point here isn’t Street’s religious or political views. It’s the tone and manner he used to express them. And while the First Amendment guarantees Street the right to hold and express whatever opinions and beliefs he holds, it does not guarantee that those opinions won’t have consequences.

As of now, Street remains an employee of Guilford County Schools.

So you have to wonder how this news will affect his effectiveness as an educator and administrator in an extremely diverse school system. Street supervises 400 teachers in grades K-12. How will co-workers, students and parents react?

After all, disagreeing with the politics of the first female, African American and Asian American vice president in history is one thing. Disparaging her as a “whore” is quite another.

Complicating matters is Street’s record of accomplishment in Guilford County. His drive and initiative have won numerous grants and awards for Guilford County Schools in recent years. And, based on his nomination, the Guilford County Board of Education won the 2018 John F. Kennedy Center and National School Board Association Award.

We were so impressed at the time that we congratulated Street for his efforts in these columns.

Which makes this episode all the more surprising and disappointing. 

What is it that makes one educator after another use such breathtakingly awful judgment on social media? Or, for that matter, public officials?

As recently as January school board member Anita Sharpe justifiably came under fire for posts of her own that repeated debunked misinformation about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Even more recently, President Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, withdrew following a firestorm over some of her tweets.

So, what should the school system do?

Guilford County Schools Chief of Staff Nora Carr made clear in an emailed statement to the News & Record: “Clearly, the views expressed (in the posts) are not consistent with the Guilford County Board of Education’s core values of diversity, empathy and equity.”

At the very least a reprimand seems in order. Street could help matters with a public apology (a real one, not the “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” variety).

At the very worst he could be fired.

To Street’s credit, his record of achievement suggests that he has added value during his tenure in Guilford County.

He could add more value by setting a better example for students.

As an educator, Street can make a bad situation better but showing that he, too, still has lots to learn.

Today’s lesson: Words have consequences.

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