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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Cordova High School principal on administrative leave for "free speech" video

The head of the Memphis and Shelby County teacher's union is questioning the principal's motive.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The head of the Memphis and Shelby County teacher's union is reacting to a controversial video made by the principal of Cordova High School.

Principal Barton Thorne is on administrative leave after making comments on the district's virtual learning platform. 

The nine-minute video was about free speech and focused on social media platforms that have blocked Donald Trump or removed certain users.

"It was very insensitive and there are several teachers who have called who were insulted about the things that he said," said Keith Williams. Williams is the Executive Director of the Memphis Shelby County Education Association. 

During a homeroom video, Thorne was critical of the riots at the U.S. Capitol, condemning them, but he then went on to talk about free speech and social media companies blocking or filtering what you see or hear.

In the video, Barton Thorne said, "It's what's going on with Twitter and Facebook and Google and Apple and their decision as private companies to filter what you hear and know about." 

The video goes on to say, "This isn't about Trump. This is about speech, because there have been times even in American history where a small group of history have decided what you can hear. "

He brought up McCarthyism here in America and communist countries.

"Think about totalitarian governments, think about north Korea, think about China. What makes those types of systems possible is the restrictions and the elimination of the free exchange of ideas," said Thorne. "You may be in agreement with the people who are doing the filtering, but it's just one moment away from someone else being able to filter you."

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"He brought this up all on his own and gave a position and went too far to one side," said Williams.

The district said they are working with staff to address controversial subjects through the office of Equity and Access.

"Anytime you are talking about politics, religion, and race - those are the issues that can be emotionally charged. And we have to make sure we are recognizing our audience, and we have to make sure we understand who we are and who we are speaking to," said Michael Lowe with the SCS Office of Equity and Access.

Shelby County Schools released a statement confirming Thorne was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the allegation and saying they can't share further details about the comments. 

Local 24 News reached out to Thorne. So far we haven't heard back.