Wednesday, March 21, 2007

School Board Ignores Defenders Of Suspended Teacher

Woodlan school officials continue to dig a deeper hole for themselves by retaliating against the journalism teacher who allowed 10th-grader Megan Chase to write an editorial advocating tolerance of gays and lesbians. Dozens of supporters of Amy Sorrell, the teacher who has been placed on administrative leave by the school for her actions in connection with the editorial, were denied an opportunity to speak at a school board meeting in her defense last night. The Star reports:

Dozens of people who attended a school board meeting to support a suspended journalism teacher left frustrated when they were not allowed to speak.

The student editor of the Woodlan Junior-Senior High School newspaper said some staff members quit on Tuesday, the day after East Allen County Schools officials placed teacher Amy Sorrell on paid leave pending a review of whether her contract should be terminated.

The action came two months after the student newspaper published a sophomore's editorial advocating tolerance for homosexuals and officials responded by requiring the all future issues be approved by the principal of the 700-student school east of Fort Wayne.

School Board President Stephen Terry told those attending Tuesday night's meeting they would not be allowed to discuss Sorrell's suspension, saying the board might in the future hear an appeal if she was fired.

"It's to preserve the rights of the teacher," Terry said.

He said his decision was based on state law, but when a teachers union representative asked for the specific law, Terry ruled the question out of order.

"I think it's kind of ridiculous that they're not going to listen to the parents and students and taxpayers that are here," Sorrell said after leaving the board meeting.

Cortney Carpenter, a junior who was editor of the Woodlan Tomahawk, said she and at least two other students quit the newspaper staff Tuesday after Principal Ed Yoder told the class that it must resume publishing the school paper and print a district policy naming the principal as the publisher.

"We decided that it was wrong and we couldn't do it, and all the things we had done up to that point would be meaningless if we decided to back down," she said.

School district officials have said newspaper classes are expected to publish newspapers as part of the curriculum.

Woodlan school is going to be in the same place the Raymond Elementary school in Warren Township found itself of having to hire a public relations firm after it mishandled a student sex incident in the classroom to fix the public relations disaster it has created for itself. Beating down Sorrell as hard as they can is only going to make matters much worse for the school. These people should know better.


Anonymous said...

Several things can be discovered in this sorry case, by looking at past documents:

Did the journalism classes, in their syllabi, contemplate publishing a paper?

Is the newspaper a function of the classes, or is it an extra activity?

Did the school district have a written policy regarding newspaper publication and faculty/administrator review?

In the absence of one or any of the above prior to the incident, the teacher has a strong case.

And yes, the board is a final appeal authority, before court, for disciplinary action. Sad as it seems, it was proper for the board to refuse to hear the issue if an appeal is underway or contemplated. The appeal body shouldn't hear evidence, pro or con, prior to a potential hearing.

This school district ought to tuck in its tail and reinstate the teacher, unless, as I've suspected all along, they wanted to get rid of her before all this mess.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting case, similar to the hazelwood v kulhemier case. i have a feeling that rulings will prove to be the same in this case as they were in the hazelwood case.

Anonymous said...

Megan Chase is a very good reporter. She said what she thought was right to try and defend those who are too afraid to defend themselves. Everything she said in her article was true, and you could tell that she was very passionate about her story. This teacher should not be suspended because it was good to publish the article, even though it made the school look bad. It exposed an ongoing issue and Megan Chase is trying to make it less of an issue by showing the truth about it. Let this teacher teach, shes goo d at it.