A now-retired English instructor at Oconee County High School in Watkinsville used her platform to proselytize to captive students last January in an attempt to turn them against former U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters.
The teacher, Lynne Ely, did not return The Georgia Star News’ requests for comment Wednesday. But angry Oconee County residents uploaded a nearly-45 minute recording of Ely ranting against Trump and discussing the events of January 6 on the Facebook group Oconee County 411 (GA).
“Our lesson today was supposed to be on propaganda, [but] we don’t need to look at Russian or German or Nazi propaganda,” Ely told her Advanced Placement English class on January 7.
“We can look at the propaganda that led to this event. And there are still plenty of them [propagandists] out there. You can still find people who say the people who did it were not Trump supporters.”
During the recording, available online, Ely delivered a one-sided presentation. She did not ask any of her students for their opinions. Ely did not permit her students the opportunity to debate her point of view. Ely said at one point she was telling them “the truth.”
A student of Ely’s secretly recorded her. That student’s mother, who requested anonymity to protect her child, said she addressed the situation with school administrators almost seven months ago. The mother said school administrators have done nothing, and “the matter has dragged out.” She said she chose to publicize the recording now.
“She [Ely] is giving factually incorrect information that is slanted from biased media and regurgitating it to our children as if it is fact,” the parent said.
“She must be made an example of so that other teachers know this is no longer acceptable and they will be held accountable. Especially with older children and teenagers. They are aware. They will record you if you try to push a political agenda, and you will be held accountable. If not by the school, [then] by the parents.
‘A Teacher of Rhetoric’
Ely started her presentation by describing herself as “a teacher of rhetoric.”
“I have tried to stay away from politics over the last four years. Rhetoric matters. Words matter. The use of words for disinformation matter,” Ely said, referring to the events of January 6.
“I don’t want to get political but let’s just get real about what has happened about the results of rhetoric and what rhetoric can mean when we saw it on the news. I don’t want you to ever forget.”
Ely misidentified U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) as a senator from Michigan. She said Hawley and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fought against certifying Joe Biden as the U.S. President “to pacify their base.” She then played clips of U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) disparaging Trump and the former president’s supporters as insurrectionists.
“People depend on the United States to do what we do. To lead. Our friends are so disappointed and crushed by what happened, by what they saw on the news,” Ely said.
“Our enemies, whatever that means, they are just tickled and having a great time with this, because they have been trying to tell us that democracy doesn’t work.”
Ely then played an audio of a Wall Street Journal editorial calling on Trump to resign from office.
In 2018 the University of Georgia said a majority of Oconee County residents typically vote Republican.
Reaction from the School System
Oconee County Schools (OCS) spokeswoman Anisa Sullivan Jimenez told The Star News by email Wednesday that Ely recently retired after a long career teaching English.
“While we don’t have a comment on her specific lecture, the professional expectation of educators is to teach the standards in an unbiased manner,” Jimenez said.
None of the five OCS board members returned repeated requests for comment Wednesday.
The website Athens CEO said Ely was also the school’s head cross country coach and a regional and 4A state coach of the year.
While Ely did not return requests for comment, a man named Andrew Ely responded to The Star News via email Wednesday.
“She retired this year after 20+ years of selfless dedication to educating children and, yes, encouraging challenging discourse to Advanced Placement rhetoric students,” Andrew Ely said, referring to Lynne Ely.
“The Facebook moms and spy kids can rest easy. They’ve won and can expect full silent complicity the next time there’s a deadly storming of our nation’s capital by Americans.”
The Star News asked Sullivan if OCS officials will consider implementing a policy that forbids teachers from using their classrooms to indoctrinate their students.
Sullivan declined to answer.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to email@example.com.
Photo “Oconee County High School” by Oconee County High School.