DENVER - A high school teacher who triggered an uproar by telling students that some of President Bush's remarks sounded like Adolf Hitler will be back in the classroom Monday, vowing to be a better teacher while still promoting "social justice."
Social studies teacher Jay Bennish was reinstated Friday after more than a week on paid leave while officials investigated whether he broke school district rules. "He's not losing one nickel," said his attorney, David Lane.
Cherry Creek School Superintendent Monte Moses declined to say what the investigation found or whether Bennish had been punished but said Bennish's "practice and deportment need growth and refinement."
Lane also refused to say whether his client would be punished but said he would make changes.
"Jay's teaching style will perhaps be, as some would say, a little more fair and balanced on a minute-to-minute basis," Lane said. "When you put out one side, put out the other then and there."
The decision ends at least one chapter in a monthlong dispute over Bennish's Feb. 1 lecture in a 10th-grade geography class that made national headlines, prompted calls from around the nation and even elicited a comment from President Bush.
Asked about Bennish on Friday, Bush said "people should be allowed to criticize me all they want, and they do."
During the lecture, Bennish said some of Bush's State of the Union address the night before "sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say."
One of Bennish's students recorded part of the lecture and gave a copy to a radio talk show. His father gave a copy to the school district, which launched an investigation into whether Bennish violated a policy requiring teachers to present balancing points of view in the classroom.
While refusing to say how administrators had handled Bennish's case, Moses said "something had happened" regarding Bennish and that the teacher had been given "suggestions and recommendations."
Bennish said the Feb. 1 lecture was meant to encourage students to think and that he had always presents balanced views, though not always at the same time.
On Friday, Bennish he would continue to strive to be a better teacher but also teach his students "to promote social justice" and "keep encouraging my students to think critically."
Sean Allen, the student who recorded Bennish's lecture, said he never wanted Bennish to be fired but thought school officials should make him temper his lectures.
"I think he was a good geography teacher as long as he would just teach geography," Allen told KHOW radio in Denver.
Allen said he won't return to Overland because he's received threats against his safety, which he said he reported to police. But he said he had no regrets.
"I would do it a million times over because I feel like it was the right thing to do and my conscience wouldn't let me go on and listen to the things Mr. Bennish was saying and indoctrinating students," he said.
Allen's father, Jeff, told The Associated Press the family had not decided whether his son would return to Overland.
He said Bennish's lecture was "an Anti-American diatribe."
"I'm hoping this incident is going to bring about other change around the country that will take over from this. I'm hoping that some other kid gets to take it away from us," Jeff Allen said.
Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who had criticized Bennish's lecture, praised Allen.
"My first thought is to thank Sean Allen for standing up and voicing his concern over a teacher who was using his classroom as a political soapbox," he said.
"Second, I hope that Mr. Bennish will learn something from this and actually work to balance and improve his classroom presentation," Owens said.
By Colleen Slevin, Associated Press
March 11, 2006