Activists In Our Schools – The Propagandist

Part 1 of a Multi-Part Series
By Michelle Antoine

Dennis Draughon, political cartoonist, and eighth grade Smithfield Middle School social studies teacher has catapulted Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS) into the media spotlight. Most county residents were unaware the local teacher was being paid by WRAL to use biting satire and hyperbole with exaggerated drawings to dole gut punches to conservative political opposition.

Draughon’s caricature of Mark Robinson, the first Black Lt. Governor of North Carolina, as an elephant in a Klansman robe and hood, left the freshly sworn in politician rightfully outraged. Mr. Robinson called a press conference to call out the repugnant drawing and questioned, “If he is doing this on WRAL, what is he doing in his classroom?” That is an excellent question, one Johnston County residents should have answered.

Draughon grew up in Virginia and North Carolina. As a kid he developed his talent drawing Peanuts cartoons, eventually attending NC State University where he landed his first political cartooning gig at the Technician, a school newspaper. He spent years crafting his skills and political mind on the University campus, largely ignoring the actual pursuit of a higher education. After eight years at NCSU, and not earning a degree, he published a book of his works titled, The Line is Draughon.

His book garnered an opportunity for full-time work as a political cartoonist for a Scranton, PA newspaper, The Times-Tribune, where he stayed for 15 years. He was let go in 2004, reportedly the progressive leaning paper found his brand of politics too harsh.

He came back to the Raleigh area and began freelance political cartooning for several newspapers. He returned to NCSU, finally earning his undergraduate degree, along with becoming credentialed for teaching.

Draughon was hired on briefly at Wake County Schools, then moved to JCPS where he has been teaching for 10 years. Throughout his adult life Draughon has a history of animus toward conservatives. In an April 1985 satirical Technician article seen here, Draughon feigns being shot by a conservative student and in the article the authors state, “The greatest threat today is not from communists but right-wing conservatives.” The piece finishes with Draughon’s statement “Damn Redneck got me.”

When he released his book The Line is Draughon, he was featured in a 1988 U.The National College Newspaper. The writer noted “Draughon’s appearance belies his character,” an apt description still today. In the U. article Draughon called himself “an Anarchist” politically, and the cartoons he chose to feature included Ronald Reagan violently gunning down a black man, and a coat hanger with a holy cross as the hook over the word ABORTION, article linked here.

Draughon was clearly a radical with dark thoughts. As he moved into his established political cartooning career he drew a steady litany of polarizing partisan cartoons, some still found at Draughon Draws, some of his most offensive pieces removed from archived sources. Draughon spoke of his discomfort being in the mixed company of religious faiths outside his Protestant upbringing in an Editor & Publisher Magazine (E&P) November 2019 interview, where he said, “When I lived in Scranton the vast majority of people I knew or interacted with were Irish and Italian Catholics and while that wasn’t an unbridgeable gap it was one that caused tension.” His religious discrimination was reflected in his steady stream of derogatory cartoons of the Catholic faith: March 2002 and April 2002.

As his freelance jobs ended Draughon secured a part-time paid spot on the WRAL website. In an Association of Retired Faculty (ARF) NCSU Spring 2019 newsletter snippet, about Draughon being awarded an EPPY by E&P Magazine, the editor states, “Given today’s political climate, Draughon has plenty to draw from to educate his students and produce insightful cartoons.” A nod of recognition that his political bias will be infused into teaching students.

In fact, Draughon expounded on how he manages to create two political cartoons weekly while holding a full-time teaching job in his E&P interview. He notes the use of his lunch period and sometimes his prep periods to work on his political ideas. This is in direct conflict with JCPS Policy Code 5170: Staff Participation in Political Activities “No person employed by the Johnston County Board of Education shall engage in partisan political activity during the employee’s working hours or at any time the employee is performing his or her job duties for the school system.” and Draughon’s moonlighting is frowned upon at JCPS, Policy Code 5350: Dual Employment “The Johnston County Board of Education discourages non school employment of its professional and support staff during the regular school year.”

Draughon also contributed to the Association of American Editorial Cartoonist weekly Cartoons for the Classroom series, which depicts two graphics followed by a series of questions to be used in today’s social studies classroom, his work and other contributors. The leftist partisan and political bias is thick in each lesson, and features controversial topics like abortion funding, gun rights, religion, and President Trump.

The weekly classroom cartoons from 2015 forward have former President Trump as the subject of ridicule, nearly every week it struck out to impune Trump or his policies. In comparison to the years of the Obama presidency, where only the occasional cartoon with former President Obama would appear.

The unbalanced political nature of the classroom tool may be outside the bounds of JCPS Policy Code 5170: Staff Participation in Political Activities “The teacher shall use a variety of materials that represent balanced and diverse viewpoints on the political spectrum”

Free political speech is broadly protected, and that is important for the citizens of a free Republic. While the depiction of our first Black Lt. Governor as a character in a KKK cartoon is offensive, Draughon should be allowed to draw, and WRAL print, these images.

Whether Dennis Draughon should be teaching our impressionable children and if he is within the terms of employment, however, is another matter entirely. He has gone well outside the JCPS policy 5115 “Employee Conflict of Interest (c) Work of any type that materially and negatively affects the education program of the school systems.” Additionally, he may be outside of the JCPS Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct that requires honesty, integrity and fairness when dealing with the public. He depicts Republicans and specifically southern conservatives, which includes a large portion of JCPS families and his colleagues, as uneducated racists.

Draughon has locked his Twitter and media accounts, but he cannot wipe away his weekly political bombs that appear to consistently violate JCPS Policy Code 5175: Employee Use of Social Media “(6) Employees shall be respectful and professional in all electronic communications directed to or referencing parents, students, or other employees, including but not limited to communications through social media.”

Mark Robinson may be the subject of his latest attack, but he is not the direct target of Draughon’s demagoguery. Draughon’s goal is to create the false narrative that Republicans are gutting the historical record, while in reality Democrats plod along wiping away the historical truths of America’s story, his drawings are the literal representation of propaganda. JCPS and other districts around the state have gone over ten years without new, or any, curriculum. Draughon has been allowed to cobble together a program
that fed students through conversation his dark and biased worldview, as witnessed by a former student who tweeted here, “He [Draughon] will walk into the room and give it to you straight about what the ‘ real world’ is like. Deep conversations about life happened in his room.”

Lt. Governor Robinson’s call for historically accurate social studies standards would drive curriculum programs that limit bias in the classroom. In his E&P November 2019 interview Draughon said, “I mention to my students lots of times…this country is throughout its history, it’s got some really good high ideals that I’d like to see us live up to one day.” Draughon displays religious bigotry, doesn’t believe The United States of America has lived up to its founding ideals, assails the character of conservatives, and uses divisive political cartoons to manipulate adolescent minds.

Draughon comes across as gentle and thoughtful, a perfected veneer for a propagandist, hiding his darkness and bias certainly the working of an activist, not an educator.

Michelle Antoine, B.S., B.A., M.S. is a Johnston County resident, formerly licensed teacher, counselor, education reform advocate and mom to eight children.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Oh no…someone drew something I didn’t like so I’m gonna b*tch about it.

    I’m as black as they come but as long as they guy isn’t teaching kids how to draw KKK members, who gives a f**k what he does in his spare time?

    Republicans are just as much whiney snowflakes as Democrats.

  2. A solid role model example of a strong, intelligent, well balanced independent woman parents should strive their girls to be. Thank you Michelle!

  3. Folks here is the truth, our school board is full of liberals progressive liberals that mask as Republicans or Conservatives. Our Board member Ron Johnson has the only history that shows he reflects Johnston County values. We have got to trust Ron Johnson to lead us at our next election and point to the real conservative that is running. These school board members that will run again will flood the field with willing liked minded friends as Republican candidates that has no chance in getting elected but making the choice for the real one and the fake one harder. Think folks, Mike Wooten just barely squeaked by and he is no conservative. We have got to have a leader that will point to and say I endorse this man or woman, Ron Johnson you will need to step up a little more in helping with that.

    • I am already disappointed in the one’s I voted for in November. It is amazing how deep the educrat agenda of instilling communist/socialist indoctrination. It seems there is no way to get out of it, anyone who is hired into any of the leadership positions has been taught all the same failed things and is more concerned with the fake issues of (non) diversity, inclusion and calling everything raaaayyyysssissst.

  4. Folks all of these school board members with exception of Ron Johnson are liberal progressive liberals that attached a R to their name knowing it their only chance. Now this next election the incumbents will run again and have liberals friends that are like minded to run with the R beside their name to flood the field so votes that want another Ron Johnson are diluted. The perfect example Mike Wooten barley squeaked by, but he had a flooded field and he is no conservative like Ron Johnson. Ron Johnson is going to have to step up a little more and endorse so we know who to fall in line with. We can clean this board up but we have to have a plan the same as the far left do on this school board.

  5. So by Michelle Antoine’s logic, any teacher that has political leanings or a second job to make ends meet should be removed. Yeah, that would really solve the shortage of teachers. What she didn’t show in her ridiculous diatribe is any evidence that he is pushing his political opinions on his students. As such, it is clear that I will never vote for this woman for school board. It’s supposed to be a non partisan position yet here she is on a witch hunt to expose teachers whose politics she doesn’t agree with.

  6. I can not wait to see the next articles… I know of a few more teachers that openly discuss their liberal views to their classes and openly put down all conservatives . Nothing is ever said or done to these teachers by the administration/county. If a conservative pushed their views and put down the liberal agenda, they would quickly reprimanded. That is a fact!!

    • And I know conservative teachers that do the same exact thing. No teacher should try to indoctrinate their students. Michelle Antoine didn’t provide any sort of evidence that this teacher did such a thing. As such, I could never support her.

      • I want to see your proof that conservative teachers do the same as Draughon and proof that Draughon presents ideas from both sides. Where is this evidence? Isn’t that what you want from this author? This public school teacher/cartoonist is supposed to present both sides fairly. Yet it seems even the left have become too intolerant to be fair.

        • She is the one writing this opinion column insinuating that teachers such as this guy, must be pushing their liberal views. As such, the burden of proof is on her to provide evidence of her accusations. Not me. So if no evidence is ever presented for her accusations, then it’s clear that she’s just spouting whiny nonsense. i know what I’ve witnessed. Politics and unscientific beliefs need to be kept out of schools.(A teacher tried to push creationism nonsense to my daughter, as well as deny global warming)

  7. And I am very glad someone is speaking out and exposing this kind of thing!! And I greatly appreciate the JoCoReport for releasing it! No other news outlet would EVER publish this.

  8. Those that can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It is a shame that an article can not be written without a particular slant. The stance taken by the author is way off base. We want all kinds of teachers with a variety of life experiences. We want those teachers that are brave enough to speak about issues that are relative to our students. I frankly would not want someone teaching my child that was only concerned with covering what was on the book. We need to remember our past. It does matter. We should also be wary about commentaries on social media and in other means that have an agenda. Both have the ability to divide us as a nation and as a school district.

  9. The article states, “No person employed by the Johnston County Board of Education shall engage in partisan political activity during the employee’s working hours or at any time the employee is performing his or her job duties for the school system.” That same logic should apply to WRAL who’s job is supposed to be news, hopefully truthful and unbiased. WRAL should be ashamed of themselves for hiring this person for partisan reasons and be held highly accountable for this outrage.

  10. Folks remember the area assistance superintendent Ms.Tonya William Leathers that was hired from Durham County and was the Principal at the school she let Joe Biden use for his campaign event. This Johnston County School Board has done turned over your kids to the extreme far left Socialist/Communist Democrats and all I want to know are the Concentration Camps still going to be next to the railroad tracks? Ron Johnson you have got to step up and endorse the candidates that will run against fake republicans in 2022 so we know who to fall in line behind. Your latest election showed how many votes could be cornered just by making your endorsement and flip these seats.

    https://jocoreport.com/jcps-names-new-high-school-area-assistant-superintendent/

    https://www.wral.com/joe-biden-speaks-at-riverside-high-school-in-durham-encourages-people-to-vote-early/19342234/

  11. Folks remember the area assistance superintendent Ms.Tonya William Leathers that was hired from Durham County and was the Principal at the school she let Joe Biden use for his campaign event. This Johnston County School Board has done turned over your kids to the extreme far left Socialist/Communist Democrats and all I want to know are the Concentration Camps still going to be next to the railroad tracks? Ron Johnson you have got to step up and endorse the candidates that will run against fake republicans in 2022 so we know who to fall in line behind. Your latest election showed how many votes could be cornered just by making your endorsement and flip these seats.

    https://jocoreport.com/jcps-names-new-high-school-area-assistant-superintendent/

    https://www.wral.com/joe-biden-speaks-at-riverside-high-school-in-durham-encourages-people-to-vote-early/19342234/

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