Sharon Sweet, an assistant professor of mathematics at Florida's Brevard Community College, was placed on paid administrative leave at her own request after an investigation began into her pressuring her students to vote for the Democrats.
Sweet, 58, teaches at the Melbourne campus of the school. Last Thursday, a parent complained to the school about the algebra teacher's attempt to get her students to sign a pledge agreeing to support Obama and the Democrats.
The matter became public on Sunday when The Franklin Center posted what she allegedly did on their blog. Students say the teacher, who is always vocal in her support of the president, handed out bookmarks containing the pledge. Campus Reform reports the pledge reads, "I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket." She is alleged to have urged her students to sign the pledge and vote for the Democrats.
The pledge was taken from the website Gotta Vote. Gotta Vote is an official website of the Obama-Biden campaign.
According to The Franklin Center, Brevard Community College's harassment policy defines harassment as "any repeated or unwelcome verbal or physical abuse which intimidates or causes the respondent discomfort or humiliation or which interferes with the recipient's educational or job performance." One of the enumerated grounds of harassment is "political affiliation."
Any employee who is found in breach of the policy is subject to disciplinary action that could result in termination.
Florida Today reports since the matter was first posted on a "conservative website," the school has received dozens of complaints by phone and email. John Glisch, a spokesman for Brevard Community College said,
"The college takes this policy extremely seriously. We are a nonpartisan, public institution. It is very important that all of our faculty and staff act in that manner at work while they're on campus."
Linda Miedema, vice president for academic affairs, is quoted in the Daily Caller as saying, "The college is taking appropriate action. We do not want any student to feel coerced."
If the allegations against Sweet are true, not only would she be in breach of Brevard County College's harassment policy but she may have violated Florida state law. Title IX, Chapter 104.31 of the Florida Statutes makes it an offence for a state employee or official to use their position to coerce or influence another person's vote. Breach of this section is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Sweet has taught at Brevard County College for the past five years and currently receives a salary of $40,000 per year.