Teaching the 5th draws suspension

When Batavia High School students were asked to reveal their drug and alcohol abuse on surveys marked with their names, social studies teacher John Dryden told them they didn’t have to answer. It’s in the 5th Amendment.

The 20-year veteran was reprimanded and suspended without pay for a day for what the school board called ”inappropriate and unprofessional” conduct. In a letter, he was ordered to refrain from using “flippant” or sarcastic remarks, providing “legal advice,” and discrediting any district initiative, reports the Chicago Tribune.  ”Other requirements in the letter include that when Dryden is given a directive in a meeting, he must now repeat the directive back at the end of the meeting and agree to comply.”

District officials said the survey was meant to target students “in need of emotional and social interventions,” not to penalize students who admitted breaking the law.

Dryden is unrepentant.

“This un-vetted survey was and is a massive invasion of privacy and students do have a Fifth Amendment right not to give to a state institution any information that might incriminate them regardless of the intentions of that institution,” he wrote in an emailed response to the board’s letter. “The administration has argued that they intended to do the right thing and that we should have simply trusted them to act responsibly with the information provided by students.”

Dryden wrote that that the new requirements are “demeaning, vague, overly broad and constructed to entrap me in a future infraction for the purpose of termination.”

Where is the teachers’ union? Will they take action only when Dryden is fired for future flippancy or failure of allegiance?

Many teachers, former students and parents of current students turned out at the hearing to support Dryden, writes Joe Bertalmio, a local businessman, in the Tribune comments. “High school is a place where you send your kids to become adults, and if the only knock against John Dryden is that he speaks to his students like they are adults then I want every single one of my kids taking his classes. I can’t wait for the day that we get to vote in a new school board, I’ll be right there with a bull horn and list of names to oust.”

Fired teacher: ‘Negro’ is a color, not a slur

A Bronx teacher fired for calling a student “Negro” says she was teaching the Spanish words for colors at a bilingual middle school, reports the New York Post.

Petrona Smith, 65, a black native of the West Indies, was fired in 2012  and hasn’t worked since. Now she’s filed suit.

She also was accused of calling seventh-grade students “failures,” but claims in court papers that she merely asked students who’d failed a test to move to the back of the room.

She denied calling the student a “Negro,” and explained to investigators that she was teaching a lesson about how to say different colors in Spanish and said the word “negro,” which is Spanish for the color black. She told her students that it was not a derogatory term and that the Spanish word for a black person was “moreno.”

She added that she’d been verbally abused by her charges, including being called a “f—ing monkey,” a “cockroach” and a “n—r,” but had never stooped to their level.

One seventh grader complained about Smith and three others agreed she’d insulted her students.

Problems with authority

The daughter of a gang leader — and a school secretary — Pearl Arredondo returned to the school where she’d been criticized for having “problems with authority” as a teacher. She went on to start a pilot middle school in Los Angeles.

TED has posted a series of new education talks.

Teen back in school — in NRA shirt

A West Virginia 14-year-old is back in middle school — wearing a National Rifle Association T-shirt — after being suspended and arrested for refusing to take it off last week. On Monday, Jared Marcum and about 100 other Logan County students wore shirts with gun rights themes provided by the Sons of the Second Amendment, a gun rights group.

Jared, an eighth grader at Logan Middle School, attended his morning classes wearing a shirt with an NRA logo, a picture of a hunting rifle and the slogan, “Protect your right.” He was standing in a cafeteria line when a teacher told him to turn his shirt inside out. He refused. He was sent to the office, where he again refused to remove the shirt, and arrested on charges of disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer. He was released to his mother and suspended for a day.

Jared’s attorney, Ben White, said video evidence shows the cafeteria was orderly until the teacher raised his voice while confronting Jared. “I think the disruption came from the teacher,” he said, predicting all charges will be dropped.

The student believes the Second Amendment is being threatened and wore the shirt as an “expression of political speech,” White said.

“What the video shows is that students did step up on the benches to the tables in the lunchroom when they were escorting Jared out of building. Kids jumped up, clapping. Teachers said to get off and be quiet, and they did.”

Logan County schools’ dress code bans clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexual language, along with ads for alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

Jared is an honor roll student who plans a career in the military, his attorney said. The 14-year-old certainly understands his legal rights.

A veteran Chicago teacher is suing to reverse a four-day suspension for bringing a pocket knife to school. Douglas Bartlett showed second graders the knife, a box cutter, various wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers “as part of a curriculum-mandated ‘tool discussion’,” his lawsuit states.

California teacher ‘talks down’ shooter

Thanks to a heroic teacher who “talked down” a 16-year-old with a shotgun, nobody was killed at a rural California high school yesterday.  One Taft High School student was critically wounded, but is now in stable condition. Wounded in the forehead by a shotgun pellet, science teacher Ryan Heber talked to the shooter, letting 28 students flee the room. With help from a campus supervisor, Kim Lee Fields, who’d heard the shots fired, he got the boy to surrender to police. RyanHeber_1357858333303.jpg

About half of California’s high schools, 16 percent of its middle schools, and 5 percent of its elementary schools have police or resource officers on campus, and 83 percent of the officers at high schools are armed, according  an EdSource survey, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Taft High’s armed resource officer wasn’t at school because he was snowed in. However, police reportedly were at the school within 60 seconds of a 911 call from a neighbor, who saw the boy enter a side door with the shotgun.

The Kern County Sheriff’s office is investigating reports the suspect threatened students last year, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Angela Hayden, whose 16-year-old daughter attends Taft, said the suspected shooter allegedly threatened to kill her daughter and other students last year while they were on a school bus during a field trip to Universal Studios.

“He was telling everyone that he had a list of people who messed with him over the years and that he was going to kill them,” Hayden told The Times.  She said the boy allegedly said his brother would be the first victim.

Hayden said her daughter complained about the incident to a vice principal and that the boy was expelled for several days. After the boy returned, Hayden said, she called the principal wanting to know why he was not permanently barred from campus. The principal declined to discuss the punishment, citing privacy concerns, according to Hayden.

“Everybody knew about this kid,” Hayden said.

The shooter used his older brother’s shotgun, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. He had extra ammunition in his pocket.

In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the White House is now considering federal funding for schools that want to hire police officers and increase surveillance, California Sen. Barbara Boxer told NBC. The NRA, derided for proposing armed guards at schools, isn’t going to go along if it’s part of a bill also calling for a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.

Teacher suspended for stomping on flag

A high school teacher in South Carolina  has been placed on long-term administrative leave on charges he threw a U.S. flag on the floor and stepped on it in a lesson on symbols, reports The Daily Caller.

Scott Compton, an English teacher at Chapin High School in Chapin, S.C., repeated the act in three classes, reports WIS-TV.

“He drew a couple of symbols, like one of them was a cross, and he said, ‘What does this represent,’ and everybody said, ‘Christianity,’” (parent Michael) Copeland explained to WIS.

“Then he proceeds to take down the American flag, and said, ‘This is a symbol, but it’s only a piece of cloth. It doesn’t mean anything,’ and then he throws it down on the floor and then stomps on it, repeatedly,” Copeland continued.

According to Copeland’s daughter, the teacher told students there would be no consequences, because “it’s just a piece of cloth that doesn’t mean anything.”

Perhaps the teacher meant to say that he couldn’t be arrested for stepping on the flag — or the cross. But there are consequences for angering people by disrespecting symbols they honor.

Teaching physics — and the power of love

As a physics teacher at a Kentucky high school, Jeffrey Wright is known for exploding pumpkins and lying under a nailed board as students use a sledgehammer to break cinderblocks above him. Most of all, he’s known for his annual lecture on raising a severely disabled son who taught him “the meaning of life, love and family,” reports a New York Times blog.

A former student of Wright’s at Louisville Male Traditional High School in Kentucky (it’s been coed for nearly 60 years) made an award-winning video, Wright’s Law.

“When you start talking about physics, you start to wonder, ‘What is the purpose of it all?’ ” he said in an interview. “Kids started coming to me and asking me those ultimate questions. I wanted them to look at their life in a little different way — as opposed to just through the laws of physics — and give themselves more purpose in life.”

One day, Wright realized his son could see, play and think, he tells students. He and his wife, Nancy, began teaching Adam simple sign language. One day, his son signed “I love you.”

In the lecture, Mr. Wright signs it for the class: “Daddy, I love you.” “. . . “There is something a lot greater than energy. There’s something a lot greater than entropy. What’s the greatest thing?”

“Love,” his students whisper.

Students are looking for purpose, “the purpose in your heart,” to answer the question, “who cares?” Wright believes.

He hopes to inspire students to pursue careers in science and genetic research. “We might be able to come up with something we can use to help Adam out one day.”

Teacher lets kids mark faces of slow readers

An Idaho teacher let fourth-graders scribble with markers on the faces of classmates who didn’t meet reading goals, reports the Times-News.

The Declo teacher had let the class pick a reward for those who met Accelerated Reader goals. Instead, the class picked a punishment — no recess or a marked face — for those who fell short.

When Cindy Hurst’s 10-year-old son arrived home from school Nov. 5, his entire face, hairline to chin, was scribbled on in red marker — including his eyelids. He also had green, red and purple scribble marks over the red, and his face was scratched by a marker that had a rough edge.

“He was humiliated, he hung his head and wanted to go wash his face,” said Hurst. “He knows he’s a slow reader. Now he thinks he should be punished for it.”

Nine of 21 students didn’t meet their goals. Three chose to go without recess and six chose to have their faces marked.

Karla Christensen, whose daughter met her reading goal, defended teacher Summer Larsen.

Christensen said if her daughter had come home with similar marks, she would have felt it was a reflection on her own parenting for not making sure her daughter reached her goal.

“I think (Larsen)is just a very creative teacher who was trying to do something to motivate the students and it went astray,” Christensen said.

LeRoy Robinson, a grandfather of two of the marked-up students, said Larsen made a “poor choice and basically, it was bullying.” Children had to wear the marker all day and then found it wouldn’t wash off,  he said.

The teacher missed several days of school after the incident, but it’s not clear whether she was suspended.  A complaint has been filed with the professional ethics board.

Principal guilty for not reporting teachers’ abuse

Craig Chandler, 35, is awaiting trial on charges of committing lewd and lascivious acts on five students at a San Jose elementary school where he taught second grade. His semen was found on a classroom chair.

Monday, a jury convicted the principal of failing to report suspected child abuse, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Principal Lyn Vijayendran listened to a second-grade girl’s story: The teacher had called her into an empty classroom, blindfolded her, told her to lie on the floor and open her legs, touched her feet with something that felt like a tongue, inserted something gooey in her mouth and then wiggled her head around until she tasted a salty liquid.

Instead of calling police, the principal called a district personnel administrator, who suggested questioning the teacher. Chandler said he was preparing for a “Helen Keller” lesson. Vijayendran believed him. The parent accepted the explanation.

Three months later, a parent told police Chandler had molested another second grader in the same fashion.

Juror Kathy Eriksen called the case “tragic,” but said the verdict was “absolutely necessary” to ensure educators, coaches and other mandated reporters don’t shirk their obligation.

. . . Juror Susan LaGaffa said the incident was obviously sexual and the teacher’s explanation ludicrous.

“I think she didn’t want this ugly thing to be true,” LaGaffa said. “But when you have responsibility for hundreds of children, you can’t afford to drop the ball.”

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Deborah Ryan immediately sentenced Vijayendran on the misdemeanor charge, giving her two years of probation and 100 hours of community service. The former principal, now working in the district office, can meet her service hours by training educators to comply with California’s mandated-reporter law.

The human resources director wasn’t charged because she’s not a mandatory reporter.

Good principals are great

Good principals are very, very good for teachers and students, concludes a study in Education Next. “For student outcomes, greater attention to the selection and retention of high-quality principals would have a very high payoff,” write Gregory F. Branch, Eric A. Hanushek and Steven G. Rivkin.

. . . highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year; ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount. These impacts are somewhat smaller than those associated with having a highly effective teacher. But teachers have a direct impact on only those students in their classroom; differences in principal quality affect all students in a given school.

Less-effective teachers are more likely to leave schools run by highly effective principals, the study found. “Good principals are likely to make more personnel changes in grade levels where students are under-performing.”

Unsuccessful principals aren’t weeded out, especially those teaching in high-poverty schools. Those who leave go to other schools.

The value-added analysis looked at “the extent to which math achievement in a school is higher or lower than would be expected based on the characteristics of students in that school, including their achievement in the prior year.”