It has taken a month, but details have finally emerged about the “Mark Twain” incident in the classroom of renowned Los Angeles teacher Rafe Esquith. Esquith was placed on administrative leave, reportedly for reading an excerpt from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and making a joke about students being obliged to perform in a play naked.
Last month we asked, “Who Ratted on Rafe and Why?” We are still not certain why, but now we know who.
LA School Report posted a letter from Esquith’s attorneys to the Los Angeles Unified School District that contains a timeline and account of events that preceded Esquith’s suspension.
Hayden had told the principal that Esquith’s joke about nudity could be deemed offensive to students and their parents. Hayden is the school’s art supervisor and technology coordinator and has worked with Esquith for many years. Esquith references her in his books and calls her “my friend.” Here is an excerpt from Real Talk for Real Teachers:
The warm feelings between the two are mutual. Hayden e-mailed Esquith several times after the incident, expressing support.
While Hayden might have handled things differently, she followed procedure, as did Principal Paek, and at some point upon arriving at the district level the investigation went completely off the rails. If Esquith’s account is accurate, it raises questions not just about whether the suspension was warranted, but whether school district officials are qualified to conduct even a rudimentary investigation.