Teacher and author Rafe Esquith was removed from his fifth-grade classroom in April amid allegations of “misconduct.” The first reports were that it had something to do with him reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to his class. But this controversy had little to do with the book at all.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, “Esquith acknowledged Monday that he quipped with students that if he could not raise enough money for the annual Shakespearean play they would all have to perform their parts naked like the king in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
That’s where it gets weird.
* The word “naked” apparently set off alarms in another teacher, who reported the incident to the principal. According to Esquith, the principal wasn’t too concerned about it, but it did get kicked upstairs by someone.
* Based on the information released so far, it doesn’t look like Esquith went to the union for representation, but instead hired high-powered attorney Mark Geragos.
* Geragos claims Esquith has already been cleared by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which means someone reported it to the state level. Also, if true, the CCTC acted remarkably fast.
* Los Angeles schools superintendent Ramon Cortines said the case involves “serious issues that go beyond the initial investigation.”
* Esquith said “district investigators never explained the allegation of misconduct lodged against him but said they were not short of questions when he was interviewed. They asked, for example, the names of teachers who may not like him, the women he dated in college and whether he was counseled as a teenager for pushing someone at summer camp. “I asked them, ‘Have you talked to my students?’ and they absolutely said to me, ‘We’re only looking to talk to people who don’t like you,'” Esquith said. “It just seemed incredibly unfair.”
* Esquith and Geragos intend to file a class action suit on behalf of Los Angeles teachers who have received similar treatment and have been placed on administrative leave. What’s strange about that is they did it with no coordination with the teachers’ union, which negotiated the current disciplinary procedure and has yet to even file a grievance or make any other formal motion on Esquith’s behalf.
There has been no report so far of a parent or a student coming forward to make a complaint against Esquith, on this or any other issue. I wouldn’t expect the teacher who started this ball rolling to identify himself or herself, but however this turns out, there needs to be an investigation into the investigation.