Saturday, April 02, 2011

When Worlds Collide

What do we in this situation?

A Connecticut high school teacher faces the loss of his job after asking a student, who is overweight, if he had eaten his homework. According to the Hartford Courant, officials in the Brookfield school district want to fire Robert Wollkind who, they say, has made a "string of inappropriate remarks over his 32-year career." Wollkind, a math teacher at Brookfield High School, was diagnosed in 2002 with Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder in which individuals have normal or above intelligence but struggle with social, communicative and sensory skills. Wollkind has been on administrative leave since the November 2010 incident...

(Superintendent) Bivona may well have concluded that Wollkind was a potential legal liability, and that 'Student 21' and his family might bring a lawsuit against the school district, charging that it had failed to protect the student's rights and caused him to be discriminated against in his math class at Brookfield High School.

On the other hand, as Wollkind does have a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, it is possible that he simply did not realize the extent of his effect of his remarks on others. He had been a teacher in Brookfield for 32 years: Why had no one called him on his sarcasm until Bivona (who has been superintendent of the district for four years)?

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act require the district to "accommodate" this teacher's disability, even at the expense of student hurt feelings?


maxutils said...

Of course, had the student done his homework, it wouldn't have been an issue.

Ellen K said...

And that is the bottom line. We have become a society so wrapped up in feelings and self esteem that the bottom line of responsibility has gone by the wayside. But for the school, this is a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario. I await the dual nature of the courts to be revealed as they award the overweight student his weight in Big Macs and then turn around to award the teacher for their failure to adhere to the ADA. Fun times.

Mr. W said...

gonna love following this one. The more and more people that are diagnosed with "conditions" are going to grow up and it is going to be interesting to see how their disabilities come into play in the real world.

MiaZagora said...

Geeze - he's been a teacher for 32 years? Is he a good teacher - other than his apparent lack of tact? Can't he just apologize to the student in front of the class and make peace with him? Do we have to teach children how to become a victim? Sometimes, everyone just needs to put their big boy/big girl pants on and get on with the important stuff. Was the kid in the habit of not bringing his homework to class?

PeggyU said...

I'm guessing Mr. Wollkind probably does a decent job in spite of his personality issues. I worked with an Asperger kid who is great at math ... but manages to rub people the wrong way at times. People who know him well, however, simply accept him for who he is.

I am going to hazard a guess that this instructor teaches both advanced classes where his students enjoy him and lower level classes where his students don't, and that this student is in the latter and is chronically unprepared.

Now I'm going to go read to see if my hunch is correct. :)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wollkind is the one person in the classroom being paid to be there. And the only one with contractual obligations and responsibilities.

The student's homework compliance status does not open him to public humiliation in the modern American classroom. (British public schools of a bygone era? Yes. But that was the inspiration for "Another Brick in the Wall.")

It sounds like Wollkind has a bit of a rap sheet of similar, documented offenses. One must assume that the consequences have been escalating throughout the 32 years. It may come down to how strong his union is in supporting him.