I am testifying against the wrongful termination of a teacher and the harassment and lack of support teachers experience in this district. I have been teaching for 23 years. I have always been recognized as a dedicated and professional member of my school’s community, nonetheless this is what happened to me.
Last year at Wister Elementary I joined the fight against the district’s dishonest claim that Wister was failing and needed to be turned over to a charter operator. One of the most vocal Mastery-supporting grandparents at Wister testified here several times claiming that Wister was a terrible place. She also held community meetings to promote Mastery. She bullied pro-public parents and acted as a spy at meetings.
On Monday April 25th this grandparent’s grandson attacked another student in my class while the other 29 students were sitting on their spots. A behavioral specialist and I separated the boys. She took the injured boy out as I held the grandson waiting for support. He continued to fight me to get at the other boy. When he was calm enough I was able to walk him to the door. He went to the office and said to the principal “I don’t know why she held my arm.” He did not admit to her that he had been fighting.
The next Monday this boy came to school and told the Principal that I had hit him with a board on the 25th. My regional superintendent took statements from students who all described exactly what I described. In the boy’s statement, however he said that everyone was jumping rope and I hit him with a board. He kept repeating that I hit him with a board, as if coached. While the regional superintendent was there the boy’s Mother came in because he had been fighting again that day. When asked about the incident she said she knew nothing of it. At the same time DHS came in to serve me a complaint that was called in by, quote: someone at 440 on behalf of a grandparent. On the DHS form it said “injury to arm, not sure which arm; injury to eye, not sure which eye.” This was the extent of it. I was told to get a lawyer.
It was clear this was a bogus claim. To some it was politically motivated; others thought the motivation was money. In fact this family had already sued the district and won a Special Ed. claim. Luckily I was exonerated.
Teachers are vulnerable to vindictiveness. Our antagonists may just be angry, looking for power from a place of powerlessness, or encouraged by others with a larger agenda. This district is trying to make teachers more vulnerable to false claims by taking away our grievance and arbitration rights. I am very thankful for the honest and supportive administrators in my case, otherwise I could have lost my job. Recalling all this still stresses me out. Teachers work so hard and love our jobs and students so much, that it makes us vulnerable. We need support – our tenderness is what allows students to connect to us; that relationship is what makes learning happen.