Politics & Government

'Why did you call us thugs?' Teachers seek answers from NC lawmaker.

Teachers carry a sign sarcastically referring to a comment by Rep. Mark Brody earlier about "union thugs" coming to Raleigh for the teachers' march on the Legislature.
Teachers carry a sign sarcastically referring to a comment by Rep. Mark Brody earlier about "union thugs" coming to Raleigh for the teachers' march on the Legislature. snagem@newsobserver.com

Rep. Mark Brody spent a lot of time Wednesday explaining that when he wrote "union thugs" were behind the rally that brought thousands of educators to Raleigh, he wasn't talking about individual teachers.

"It was not intended that way," he told one group.

Brody, a Monroe Republican, said he was referring to the National Education Association in his Facebook post.

Teachers made it a point to find Brody on Wednesday to tell him that they were hurt, shocked or offended when they heard about his comments.

"I'm a grandmother, not a thug," said Ira Reed. She works for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg arm of the N.C. Association of Educators, retiring from work in local school districts after 39 years.

Reed defended unions after Brody said his strong opposition to public employee unions were at the root of his "thugs" Facebook post.

"I've been schooled a lot in the last couple of hours," Brody said. "I support the message that you're bringing. I just don't support the method."

Brody said teachers shouldn't have had their rally on a school day. At least 42 school districts, including the state's largest, canceled classes Wednesday.

During the wide-ranging conversation, Brody agreed with Reed that teacher "pay-for-performance" was wrong. He said also that he wants to eliminate end-of-grade exams, eliminate Common Core standards and return control of school calendars to the local districts.

Teachers told Brody that schools need more special education teachers and textbooks.

As teachers left his office, Brody handed them cards with the address to a Republican legislators' website on teacher pay.

Dahlresma Marks-Evans, a middle school teacher from Durham, said the conversation with Brody led to "a better understanding" about his controversial remarks.

Reed, however, compared Brody to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, saying he was making decisions about something he didn't understand.

"I enjoyed trying to be a part of his education," she said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821: @Lynn_Bonner
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