The principal of a Tennessee high school has been placed on paid administrative leave after he made comments about free speech to students during a virtual announcement.
Barton Thorne, who is in his fourth year leading Cordova High School in Shelby County, reportedly said during a nine-minute morning announcement that free speech is being threatened by the actions of privately held tech companies, the Commercial Appeal reported.
Thorne addressed his students a day after President Donald Trump was suspended from several Big Tech platforms in the wake of violence that erupted on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all banned Trump, alleging he incited the violence leading to the breach of the building. It is currently still unclear who instigated the breach.
Audio obtained by the WREG-TV allegedly reveals Thorne addressing recent moves by Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Apple and “their decision as private companies to filter and to decide what you hear and know about.”
“Because there have been times even in American history where a small group of people decided what you could hear. You think about McCarthyism,” he said, according to the network. “If you don’t know about that, you can Google that or talk to your social studies teacher.”
The principal stressed, however, that his speech was not in support of Trump, or the recently deplatformed social media app Parler, but solely about freedom of speech. He was also critical of the riot in the Capitol.
“That was ignorance at the highest level,” he said in response to the U.S. Capitol incident. “I don’t know of too many people that are going to be OK with what happened. I don’t care what side you agree with, we don’t practice sedition, we don’t attack our legislature,” he added.
Board member Sheleah Harris, whose district includes Cordova High School, commented on the principal’s suspension, saying the allegations are “extremely unfortunate and do not reflect the true value” of the school.
“With the horrific events from last week at our U.S. Capitol, we have to ensure our children, teachers, and school staff remain in a consistent environment that promotes safety, cultural sensitivity, and represents the highest level of excellence,” Harris said in a statement.
“As leaders, we must be intentional about creating spaces for our students to discuss and process events that take place in our country and community.”
Trump took to Twitter following the outbreak of violence to call on protesters to “go home in peace.” He denounced the violence as a “heinous attack” that “defiled the seat of American democracy” on Jan. 7.
Twitter first placed restrictions on a video the president posted, before temporarily suspending his account, an action followed closely by Facebook. Twitter two days later permanently suspended Trump’s account over two posts it cited as having violated its policies.
A large number of pro-Trump accounts were also deleted by Twitter and Facebook. The social media giants have collectively seen $51.2 billion in combined market value wiped out over the last two trading sessions since they banned Trump from their platforms.
Epoch Times reporter Isabel van Brugen contributed to this report.