There's a reason we protect teachers
by David Atkins
One of the more insidious aspects of the billionaire assault on teachers is the effort to make public teaching an "at will" occupation in which a teacher can be fired at any time. I've written a couple of posts about the Vergara v. California lawsuit aimed at destroying teacher protections, but I haven't focused much on the consequences of losing the case.
Already in private charter schools there have been a raft of outrageous firings that are currently illegal in the public system, but billionaires want to legalize. Here are a few of them, sent to me via email by an education activist:
This is what will happen to public schools in California and eventually across the nation if Vergara goes the wrong way. All so a few billionaires can get even richer by turning students into commodities.
- Burke Wallace, English teacher and football coach at Livermore Valley Charter Prep in Alameda County, was fired for the crime of being gay.
- after news reports mentioned that he had married his longtime partner, Christopher Persky, following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Proposition 8. Students allege that staff at the school knew about Bencomo’s sexual orientation. Bencomo had taught at St. Lucy’s for 17 years, and was likely only terminated because of community awareness about his sexual orientation, following news of his marriage. Because Bencomo taught at a private school, he did not enjoy due process protections. If Students Matter is successful, public school teachers in California will have the same rights as Bencomo did.
- Carie Charlesworth, a teacher at a California private school, was fired for being a victim of domestic abuse. Charlesworth’s abuser was harassing her at school, in violation of a restraining order. Officials at Holy Trinity School in San Diego fired Charlesworth, citing her ex-husband’s “threatening and menacing behavior” and calling Charlesworth a “liability.” As a private school teacher, Charlesworth did not enjoy the benefits of the statutes that Students Matter is trying to undermine. If Students Matter is successful, nothing will prevent public school teachers from being fired for similar harassment.
- Probationary teacher fired for political views: Karen Salazar, a second-year English teacher at Jordan High in Watts, wasfired after administrators declared her lesson plans to be too “Afro-centric.” Salazar had used lesson plans that included excerpts fro “The Autobiography of Malcom X” and poetry from Langston Hughes. As a probationary employee, Salazar did not have due process recourse. If Students Matter is successful, no teacher will be able to appeal dismissals for teaching materials that administrators dislike.>