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NASHVILLE, TN -- After many attempts to cancel his membership, high school teacher Jeffery Hudgins is still being forced to pay dues to the National Education Association (NEA), an organization to which he is politically opposed.
Hudgins holds a "continuing membership" which, according to the NEA local affiliate, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA), cannot be canceled after Oct. 1 in any given year. Hudgins says he didn't know he was a "continuing member" and that he knew nothing about any deadline requirement.
Hudgins says he has felt uncomfortable with his NEA membership for years because of the political stands taken by the teachers■ union. He says he is a political conservative and always felt uneasy knowing that some of his $400 annual dues is going to support candidates he wants to see defeated. The final straw for Hudgins came on Oct. 3 when he read a newspaper article reporting that the NEA had passed a resolution supporting the celebration of a Gay and Lesbian History Month in public schools.
"As a social studies teacher, I feel that further polarizes our society by drawing attention to our differences rather than our similarities," Hudgins said. "If any American had made a major contribution to our society, I think that should be taught, but I don't feel it's particularly meaningful based on the sexual persuasion of that person. I don't think it's the role of the teacher to say, 'Hey, we need to know about this person because he was famous and gay'."
All delegates from the Tennessee Education Association voted against the NEA resolution that Hudgins protests, and they say there are no plans to implement the program in Tennessee. Nonetheless, Hudgins wrote a letter to the MNEA on Oct. 3 asking that his membership be terminated.
"You just come to the time in your life where you have to take a stand," Hudgins says. "And my stand is that I no longer want to be associated with that organization."
When Hudgins' request was denied, he appealed to MNEA's executive board on Nov. 2, but was denied again. He was denied yet again on Nov. 16 when he appealed the decision to MNEA's representative assembly. "I felt like there was no budging on their part," Hudgins said.
MNEA President Juanita Locket claims that the organization was simply following its own bylaws. She says every member joining the teachers' union checks a box indicating whether he or she wants to be a regular or a continuing member. The membership of a continuing member is automatically extended every year unless a person submits in writing that he no longer wants to be a continuing member.
Lockert added that the bylaws are being changed this year so a person can resign from the MNEA anytime between April 1 and May 31.