Monday, May 16, 2016

Selling Books To Students

It appears the rules in New York are the same as in California--you can't compel students to buy class materials, even at a loss:
An award-winning Brooklyn English teacher’s decision to provide each of his students with a copy of the Mary Shelley classic “Frankenstein” has thrust him into a real-life horror story.

Todd Friedman, a 29-year public-school veteran who teaches at Midwood High School, was put on administrative duty — and faces possible termination — after the city Department of Education slapped him with disciplinary charges.

His crime: He personally ordered 102 paperback copies of the novel from a publisher last September for his Advanced Placement students.

Friedman, 61, paid for the books out of his own pocket — about $220 with shipping — then sold them to students for $2 apiece to recoup most of the expenses.
What if this is true?
He noted that students spent $6 for “Hamlet” at the school bookstore, triple what he asked to recoup his layout for “Frankenstein.”

“Nobody had an issue with that,” Friedman said. “This has been going on for decades.”
I don't think the guy should be fired, but I'm forced to wonder exactly why students should be paying for books at all at a public school.  If this book is part of the curriculum, why doesn't the school have it?  And if it's not part of the curriculum, why is he teaching it?

There are a lot of questions here, and any sunlight that shines on the problem will be good.


Sandy said...

I also teach AP English Lit, and I strongly encourage my students to purchase their own copies of the literature that we read. AP students need to be heavily annotating as they read, and it's very difficult to do with school-owned books that they can't write in. I do have school copies that they can use (but not write in) if they can't get their own copy for whatever reason. Incidentally, when I took AP Lit back in the 80's, we also purchased our own novels, even though I lived in a wealthy school district.
Without researching this story further, I'd guess that the teacher violated some policy by purchasing the books himself and selling them directly to the students. Regardless, it sounds like an inane reason to suspend a good teacher.

lgm said...

I would like to know the law on this. My district in NY also asks AP students to supply their own copies of assigned books for AP English and APUSH. What I have been told casually is that AP is not a required offering, so the district isnt required to supply anything. Students arent required to spend money, as they can use the public library. Add in the fees and books for DE courses, and it gets expensive.

Darren said...

California law couldn't be more clear--it's why I have an entire bloc of posts listed as "illegal fees". I don't know about New York law.

lgm said...

Your example of the NY case is illustrative. In my district, its all verbal, so nothing admissible. At parent night I was told the school wasnt required to supply materials for nonrequired classes, and it was noted that the school library didnt have sufficient copies of written materials for the entire class, so if a student wanted to purchase a personal copy, he could buy from any provider, including the teacher. All FARM students were funded via outside donor.