…and middle school, and elementary school….
Over at Rick Jones’ Curmudgeon Central, the final nominees for his not-so-coveted 2013 Curmie Award are up, and the winner will be determined by the vote of Rick’s readers. The Curmies memorialize the worst in U.S. conduct by education professionals, and a revoltingly diverse group of miscreants he has assembled. I urge you all to drop by, read Rick’s commentary (and about some of the awful incidents that didn’t make the cut), and vote.
Only three of Rick’s final eight were covered on Ethics Alarms, and while I am confident that the ultimate winner is among them, I am now second guessing my editorial judgment. Rick’s blog is more education-centric than Ethics Alarms ( his work has filled the gap created when the excellent “No Tolerance” blog went down), but I’m trying to recall why I passed on the other six, particularly Alex Evans and his imaginary grenade, and the student suspended for disarming another student. I think I was getting so sick of post-Sandy Hook hysteria when the invisible grenade story came out that I just couldn’t write about another one just then. The other one…well, as Rick notes, there were some complicating factors, but I should have covered it. Luckily Rick Jones was on the case, and did his usual excellent job.
Here, with Rick’s descriptions and links to his commentary, are the nominees:
Principal Greer Phillips of PS 79 (the Horan School) in East Harlem for conducting a completely unannounced (to teachers, to the police…) lockdown drill less than a week after the horrors at Sandy Hook Elementary. In aggravation: outrageous timing and an incompetently run drill complete with contradictory instructions, but also the makeup of the student body (a high percentage of students with emotional or cognitive problems). In mitigation: I can’t think of a thing. [Ethics Alarms commentary here.]
Principal Valerie Lara-Black of Mary Blair Elementary School in Loveland, Colorado for suspending 2nd-grader Alex Evans for throwing an imaginary grenade into an equally imaginary box containing “something evil.” In aggravation: this is stupid behavior even if there’s something tangible. In mitigation: there’s probably some idiotic zero tolerance policy that purports to justify if not demand these flights of inanity.
Principal Tracey Perkins of Cypress Lake (FL) High School for suspending a 16-year-old student because he disarmed another student, a football player who was threatening a teammate with a loaded gun. You see, he was “involved in an incident in which a weapon was present.” In aggravation: apart from the sheer idiocy the charges, they were changed after the school started being (quite rightly) embarrassed by the publicity. In mitigation: it is possible that the boy was indeed uncooperative with the ensuing investigation.
Principal Carla Scuzzarella of North Andover (MA) High School for stripping Erin Cox from her volleyball team captaincy and suspending her for five games because she went by a party where there was alcohol long enough to drive a drunken friend home. In aggravation: the police statement makes it clear that Ms. Cox had not been drinking, and the policy manual makes a specific point about the folly of guilt by association. In mitigation: there are reports that she was at the party longer than it would have taken just to collect her friend.
Officials at Dietrich (ID) High School for reporting science teacher Tim McDaniel to the school board and the state professional standards commission, allegedly for using the word “vagina.” Yes, in a biology class. In aggravation: Mr. McDaniel seems to be being penalized for the precise reason that he was doing his job. In mitigation: it is unclear to what extent the school per se was responsible for the brouhaha, although they clearly did little to prevent it.
Batavia (IL) High School and their equally incompetent school board for punishing social studies teacher John Dryden. His crime? Reminding his students of their 5th amendment rights while distributing a survey that could indeed have led to self-incrimination. In aggravation: the survey, with students’ name on it, was a clear invasion of student privacy, motivated by the usual nannyish hogwash. In mitigation: Dryden did react without checking with school officials about the intents of the survey. [Ethics Alarms commentary here.]
The unnamed teacher at Boles Junior High in Arlington, Texas for pouring pencil shavings into the mouth of 8th-grader Marquis Jay, and to the authorities who cravenly gave her a slap on the wrist. In aggravation: you need aggravation??? In mitigation: the boy deserved some punishment—he was at best inattentive—and it seems to have been an unpremeditated and isolated incident. [Ethics Alarms commentary here.]
Principal John Hynes of Grace Brethren High School in Simi Valley, California for the completely unauthorized action of changing the grades of at least one student (possibly several, including his own daughter), and the spineless board who allowed him get by with little punishment. In aggravation: it’s a short step from what has been admitted to and what has been alleged, which would be an outrageous abuse of power. In mitigation: with the exception of the one case, the allegations come almost exclusively from a now-former teacher. This may not be the most objective of sources.