Students Back Haverhill Teacher Over Trump Lesson; School Board Plans No Action

Angelina Parolisi was one of two Haverhill High School students backing their history teacher during last night’s Haverhill School Committee meeting. (WHAV News photograph.)

Students and teachers came to the defense of a Haverhill High School history teacher Thursday night after a social media debate over whether a weekend assignment masked a political agenda.

One of the first social media comments came on a school topics page when a parent questioned whether an assignment given to students contained a liberal bent. It was titled “Some People Claim that Donald Trump is a Fascist: Time to Check it Out.” The parent contended some suggested web pages were “far-left outlets.”

“Now, I have an older child that had the same teacher a couple years ago. He did not receive the assignment, ‘Why or why not is Barack Obama a fascist?’” the parent wrote. The debate later spilled over to other pages.

High school students Angelina Parolisi and Spencer Zbitnoff backed their teacher, Shaun Ashworth.

“I have never seen or heard from him trying to impose a personal opinion on any student and, instead, he teaches us to consider every source and to view everything from an unbiased perspective,” said Parolisi.

Parolisi is the daughter of Haverhill Education Association First Vice President Anthony J. Parolisi, who also spoke.

Freshman Zbitnoff told members most students actually concluded Trump is not a fascist and that he likely “learned more from social media than from my assignment.”

“Anyone who says my teacher should be reprimanded for this assignment is wrong because they don’t know the full picture. They can’t say they were in class and they can’t say they know what the teacher’s intent was,” he said.

Members largely listened to the responses during the so-called “public participation” portion of the regular Haverhill School Committee. Mayor James J. Fiorentini reminded the public the School Committee is neither taking nor anticipating taking any action on the topic.

The written homework assignment asks students to use Google searches and such websites as, and

In an email to parents, Haverhill High School Principal Glenn Burns assured them “these concerns of political bias are taken seriously.” However, he added, “We will continue to provide our scholars opportunities to debate and engage in controversial topics because this is at the heart of how positive change and innovation happens.”