Friday, December 9, 2016

Teacher

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A Beaver County, Pennsylvania, high school science teacher named Amy Douglas is in big trouble–after students posted a photo on Instagram of Douglas getting her breasts grabbed by two students.

The caption read: “Everyone be jealous that we got to touch Dougie’s boobs.”

douglas
The image shows two high school girls puckering their lips and grabbing Douglas’s breasts, over her shirt, as she sticks out her tongue and smiles.

The photo was allegedly taken on the school’s prom night, which Douglas helped organize and chaperone.

Despite the controversy now swirling around Douglas, some parents–including the mother of one of the girls in the photo–are dismissing the photo as horseplay, and claiming that absolutely no sexual contact had taken place between Douglas and any students.

“There were so many pictures being taken,” said the mother. “They were having fun. That was it. That was the end of it. [The photo] was innocently done but stupidly done.”

Apparently, one of the girls in the photo–who put the picture online–is “devastated” over the backlash, and the fact that her teacher may wind up losing her job because of it.

Superintendent Jane Bovalino addressed the controversy: “The behavior depicted in this photograph does not represent the behavior that we expect from our staff. It is a personnel issue so I can’t comment further other than to say that it’s investigation.”

Things don’t look good for Douglas, even though no decision has been reached in whether or not she gets to keep her job. Is her photo really just misguiding fun with some of her students, or a crime worth getting fired over?

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mark-twain

Rafe Esquith, a teacher at Los Angeles’s Hobart Boulevard Elementary School, has been barred from teaching. Just because he read a passage from the iconic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, to his students. A book that virtually every student will graduate having read.

Esquith, described by some news sites as “the world’s greatest teacher,” is a nationally-renowned teacher–who received multiple awards for his work and has written several books on teaching.

But if you’re the Los Angeles Unified School District, his accomplishments don’t matter–not when he read a passage from what’s long been considered one of the seminal works of American literature. Esquith was apparently suspended from class after another teacher complained about his “controversial” reading choice.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has certainly been increasingly controversial in recent years, largely due to its racial language–which was a satiric choice by Mark Twain, who was notably anti-slavery.

But the passage Esquith read didn’t even deal with slavery or race directly. It describes two circus performers that Huck Finn met during the course of the novel, nicknamed “the duke” and “the king”:

“The duke and the king worked hard all day, setting up a stage and curtain and row of candles for footlights… At last, when he’d built up everyone’s expectations high enough, he rolled up the curtain. The next minute the king came prancing out on all fours, naked. He was painted in rings and stripes all over in all sorts of colors and looked as splendid as a rainbow.”

While it’s certainly a colorful passage from a 130-year-old novel, it shouldn’t be especially controversial. Certainly not when it’s taught in an academic setting.

Advocates of academic freedom, and even Esquith’s teachers’ union, are in rare agreement. They consider this to be a massive violation of protocol–not to mention, a completely unfair reason for the school district to suspend him.

“When you quote Mark Twain and you go to teacher jail, your reputation is trampled on and ignorant bureaucrats assume the role of judge and jury in the face of a baseless allegation which has already been found meritless by the California Teacher Credentialing Committee,” Esquith’s attorney, Mark Geragos, said. “Sadly, it is the students, their families and the community that suffers.”

Los Angeles Unified hopes to have a final assessment on the “controversy” before school begins again in August.

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