Given my 10-day suspension, how is it possible that I’m returning to work on Monday?
In December, Seattle Public Schools informed the union and me that the 10-day suspension that had come out of arbitration would be scheduled for the start of second semester, what would have been my first day back after a year and a half of exile from The Center School, the school I helped open in 2001. Word spread.
On Wednesday, January 28th, Superintendent Nyland sent me a letter announcing that I had magically served my 10-day suspension during the first semester, which I spent on voluntary, unpaid leave.
Why did the superintendent do this?
Was it to acknowledge the many mistakes on the district’s part over the past two years, including:
- The mistake of violating Superintendent Procedure 3207SP.A, which requires interviews with witnesses during investigations of alleged harassment, intimidation, and bullying—a classroom of witnesses were omitted from the first investigation,
- The mistake of caving to one white family willing to go to great lengths to mischaracterize and distort experiences of racism shared by students of color, accusing the classroom of “fomenting racial hatred,”
- The mistake of abruptly suspending a study of race (not to mention gender) based on the formal complaint of this same white family advocating a colorblind approach to race and despite this teacher’s high test scores and exclusively positive evaluations,
- The mistake of confusing students’ right to free speech for an intimidating environment, as students respectfully petitioned throughout the school to reinstate the abruptly suspended curriculum (this petitioning became the sole basis for my transfer from Center and the 10-day suspension),
- The mistake of banning lessons adapted from a Courageous Conversations training, even though the committee that reviewed the curriculum not once discussed what these lessons entailed, according to the committee notes,
- The mistake of ignoring School Board Policy No. 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity, which demands that curricular materials reflect the diversity of the students and which requires the use of a racial equity analysis tool—a tool that has yet to be applied to any part of my case, including the suspension,
- The mistake of abusing its power against teachers, creating a chilling effect throughout the district when it comes to confronting race and racism in the classroom?
Are these mistakes the reason the superintendent moved my suspension and ordered me to return to the classroom on Monday?
Absolutely not. The district has yet to acknowledge any wrongdoing. District leaders have yet to own even one of these mistakes (and the few examples I include do not even make up the complete list).
No, the superintendent altered the suspension dates because he feared the widespread unrest that would result if the suspension started on Monday.
- Unrest from union members, who can’t understand why I would still be punished after I had already been transferred for a year and had my name dragged through the mud.
- Unrest from the current Center School parents/guardians, many of whom have been angry at the prospect of a substitute for two weeks.
- Unrest from the greater Center School and Seattle communities, who have proved to be a relentless force for justice.
- Unrest from current students, who have already staged one walkout and earned the district another embarrassing headline.
I’m writing to encourage you NOT to think of my return to Center School on Monday as any sort of win. The 10-day suspension that is now on my record is the harshest punishment possible short of termination. Furthermore, Nyland’s decision to follow through with the suspension is entirely voluntary. Even he has acknowledged this fact.
The district’s last-minute change of heart that sends me back to the classroom on Monday was a strategic decision to avoid more poor publicity and another Center School headache.