Sunday, June 29, 2008

Teacher Suspended For Year and a Half

It's definitely not a First Amendment issue, despite what the teacher's attorney said.

The teacher assigned The Freedom Writers Diary, a book about a teacher who is able to reach inner city students through writing, helping them grow and mature in the process. It was recently made into a movie--and yes, there are some graphic themes and language in it.

The teacher's supervisor (principal) sent her an email telling her not to use the book in her class. She did anyway: "They were reading, they were engaged. And then I read that email again, and I looked at my students, and I decided, I want them to read this book."

And for her going against the rules, she's been suspended without pay for a year and half--and promises not to return unless she can teach using that book.

I've stated before on this blog--it may not be smart for schools or districts to keep particular books out of classrooms, but it is legal. And since we teachers are public employees and not private contractors, we follow the instructions that are laid out by the elected school boards and implemented through the school administration. I'm sorry this teacher lost her job over this, but she defied specific instructions about curriculum.

If she was so adamant about her students' reading this book, she could have told them about it and suggested they check it out of the school library, where it sits on a shelf.

Full disclosure: I have a shelf of books in my classroom, and this book is on that shelf.


Rhymes With Right said...

Sorry -- not even a question in my book. She should not have been merely suspended. She should have been fired outright.

My question is this -- does the suspension keep her from seeking other employment in public education until the end of the 2009 school year?

Hall Monitor said...

This story made! Voted #1 for crazy news in education.

Law and Order Teacher said...

What do you think of the book? I haven't read it. First blush, I'm not a fan of the language. I spend my day correcting the language of students.

Darren said...

It's always nice to read a story about a teacher who helps kids reach further than they thought they could, but it gets a bit syrupy in parts.

I've never been a fan of that kind of language in school, though. If you need that kind of language in order to express yourself, then you need more education.

mybellringers said...

Like I tell my students… just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD. People often think that the First Amendment covers everything, but it doesn't.

Employers--including school districts--can institute policies limiting one's expression. As I recall fairly recently, there was even a CNN journalist fired for blogging because he supposedly violated CNN's policy on blogging. How crazy is that?

Common sense, I think, goes a long way in avoiding such quagmires.

If a teacher is that far off of that district's philosophy/mission/policies, then it's time to move on and find a district more in line with one's educational viewpoint.

Darren said...

*Especially* in matters regarding curriculum.

I left a school district once over a difference of opinion regarding math curriculum.

adsoofmelk said...

Well, how can she be that surprised? Her supervisor was very clear and she clearly defied her supervisor, so what did she think would happen? I agree with what others have said: if the book is THAT wonderful, then assign it as independent reading or give classroom-appropriate selections from it.