CEDAR RAPIDS — In a Facebook post that quickly went viral, Kennedy High School Principal Jason Kline publicly condemned Donald Trump’s comments about sexually assaulting women Saturday.
“To my students, but especially to the boys: I want to be sure you know. What we have learned about Donald Trump and how he speaks about and treats women is not ok,” he wrote on his own Facebook page and later reposted on Kennedy High’s Twitter account. “It’s not ok for a 60-year-old man, its not ok for a 13-year-old boy. It’s not ok for anyone.”
By Monday afternoon, the post garnered more than 18,000 shares, 31,000 “likes” and 3,000 comments on Facebook.
Kline said the “callousness” shown by the Republican nominee for president in a 2005 video surfaced by the Washington Post — in which Trump discusses “grabbing” and kissing women without their consent — pushed him “over the edge.”
“If male role models and male leaders stand idly by and do nothing, we’re giving passive consent,” Kline, 38, said in an interview with The Gazette. “ ... I want my students to know there are role models in their lives that say this is wrong.”
The father of three daughters, Kline also encouraged girls to “walk far away” if they are treated like a “possession” or “object” before encouraging other educators to share similar messages with their students.
“Real men don’t treat women this way,” he wrote. “We don’t talk about women this way. We don’t cheat on our spouses. We don’t force ourselves on women. We don’t joke about assaulting women. We don’t make light of assaulting women. We don’t strategize about assaulting women. Rapists do these things. Not real men.”
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I feel compelled to say that sexual assault is not ok. Ever. And real men don't joke about it, strategize about it, or especially do it. pic.twitter.com/n1SvV8NvDz
— Jason Kline (@CRKennedyHigh) October 8, 2016
Kline, who has been principal at Kennedy for three years, said Sunday he had only received messages of support from Kennedy students and their families regarding his message.
In Facebook comments, though, many people accused Kline of pushing a political agenda by condemning Trump.
Kline, who said he has identified as a Republican “until recently,” disagreed.
“I don’t think it’s a politically divisive issue,” he said. “I’m pushing for civility. My goal is for students to see that there are adults that say this is wrong.”
Most of the negative comments appear to be posted by people living outside the Cedar Rapids area, he added.
The district’s policy handbook outlines how staff should address controversial issues — those that stir “sincere, conflicting points of view” among different groups of people. District staff should discuss all sides of those issues with students.
Kline said he believes the harassment of women is not a controversial topic.
“If there’s a division that supports the comments that were made, I’m happy to rescind my arguments,” he said. “But I can’t think of anything to defend that kind of stuff.”
In a statement Monday, a Cedar Rapids Community School District spokeswoman said the district “does not condone the political framing” of Kline’s comments but agrees “with the sentiment regarding the respectful treatment of women.”