Friday, June 19, 2015

Garfield Choir Students Rally Today

 Update:  according to a comment in this thread, this rally is timed for when Ms. Burton is meeting with Dr. Nyland today.

I have requested the District's investigation report and was told I could have it on June 22nd.

The District put out a press release on the report right as the Garfield students and Friend of Garfield Choir were rising up to support Ms. Burton.  A tease of a press release is NOT the full report and to act as though everyone should go "oh well, never mind, move along, nothing to see here" is a wrong assumption on the part of the District. 

The comment in this thread has the Friends of Garfield Choir's  own press release that is just as confusing as the District's (and there are several excuses in there for things that should not have happened - I find that troubling from parents).  I assume this is just the parents' statement and not the students but let me know.

It's all confusing if you don't have a clear timeline of the who, what when, where and why.

So it's a war of words until we see the independent investigation of the District, get feedback from students/chaperones on the trip (and those are the only people I want to hear from) and compare the stories.

I'd have to read the report to know if I would think Ms Burton should be exited from the district.

But I do believe the issue of whether the district knew the male student had past issues with inappropriate sexual contact and did not communicate this to Garfield staff is key.   It goes to liability.  We don't know for certain that Garfield leadership or Ms. Burton would have acted on that information but if they didn't know, then they had no option to act.

We also don't know how the parents of the victims feel.  These girls may be okay with whatever happened but their parents may not be.

There is also the issue of fairness.  The teachers in the Garfield NatureBridge incident had nothing publicly done like being exited.  (I have to hope they had a letter put in their personnel file over their lack of oversight on the trip but who knows?)  Why would Ms. Burton be considered for exiting and not the NatureBridge teachers?  I would think the SEA would have this question as well.

End of update

I don't have many details but the students in the Garfield Choir will have a rally today at JSCEE at 1:30 pm in support of their teacher, Carol Burton.  Ms. Burton's job may be in peril because of actions of chaperones and an incident that occurred on a field trip to New Orleans this past spring.

I have this statement from the students (making it clear that students wrote this and not the Garfield Vocal Music program which would include staff):

The Garfield Vocal Music program would like to make it clear that we do understand the ramifications of this breach of policy, but are in agreement that the blame cannot be fully attributed to Ms. Burton. We have all suffered a lot these past few months without her here, and all we want is for her to return to the job she loves and deserves so much.

I wish I could go to see if anyone in senior leadership will come out and talk to the students.

16 comments:

ChoirMom said...

A minor correction, it's Carol Burton, not Sue.

The rally will include students, alumni, parents, teachers, and concerned community members. The rally has been timed to support Carol as she meets with Dr. Nyland this afternoon.

Here is a statement provided to the media on June 13th from the Friends of Garfield Singers in response to the media reports and the district's statements made the day of the students' press conference. The facts included in this statement are supported by the investigative report. The letters referenced in the statement were made available to the media as well. Another packet of letters, which included those already released, is being released today to the media and will be available at the rally for members of the press.

Statement of Friends of Garfield Singers

There is also a fundraiser organized by Carol's colleagues at Garfield to help her pay for her legal fees. Carol Burton Legal Fundraiser

Melissa Westbrook said...

ChoirMom, I'm not sure the Statement of Friends of Garfield Singers helps a lot (there are some confusing things in it).

But, at this point, it is a war of words and that's the District's fault.



Stu said...

I'm sorry, I don't understand the controversy. Our son (not at Garfield) is a musician and has gone on quite a few field trips. Everyone know the rules and everyone knows that there are repercussions for breaking the rules.

It seem to me that, after the last fiasco with a Garfield trip, there has to be a zero tolerance policy in place. These teachers and parents are legally responsible for high school students and, therefore, must be vigilant. While I agree that, if Carol Burton was not told about the one student who sexually assaulted the girls, that should not be entirely held against her, the co-mingling of students in the rooms, ANY drinking by teachers or chaperones, and any other issues falls at her feet.

Even with the half-hearted work by the district to enforce the rules of field trips, teachers, students, and chaperones, know the rules -- don't they "sign off" on the rules -- and know what happens if the rules are broken.

The Garfield music program is amazing with a huge amount of participation and support. If the orchestra, or band, or choir, goes on a field trip, all involved must follow the rules or risk losing the right to travel AND the teacher in charge.

We're constantly asking the district to take responsibility for its actions; if ANY of the allegations are true about this trip, Carol Burton has to take some of the blame and, therefore, the fall. This is heartbreaking and severe but we're talking about someone who is legally responsible for the lives of our students and there shouldn't be a whole lot of leeway.

stu

Charlie Mas said...

ChoirMom wrote: "The facts included in this statement are supported by the investigative report."

Again I ask: How does ChoirMom know what is in the investigative report when it is not a public document?

The fact that members of the public know what is in a confidential report is an issue and problem in itself.

Charlie Mas said...

And again, let's remember that following the rules for chaperones is no guarantee that children will not misbehave. That's understood and no one should be punished if they followed the rules and the children broke them. That's not the issue and should not be the issue.

The critical question is not whether sexual harassment occurred, but if the teacher followed the District policy and procedure upon receiving the report of it. Neither the District's press release, nor the press release from the Friends of Garfield Singers address the real question.

As for the drinking... it is not credible to suggest that the prohibition against alcohol was only a "guideline" and not a rule.

In any case, termination seems a disproportionate punishment, but, again, what reason is there to believe that termination is being considered as a consequence? No public document mentions this, so what is the source for that belief?

cmj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cmj said...

Melissa, thank you for requesting the report.

Charlie Mas said In any case, termination seems a disproportionate punishment, but, again, what reason is there to believe that termination is being considered as a consequence? No public document mentions this, so what is the source for that belief?

Melissa posted a press release or excerpt of a press release that says The superintendent is considering the appropriate corrective action to take against the teacher, which may include the termination of her teaching contract.

cmj said...

I'm concerned that students will be less likely to come forward if they've been sexually assaulted because they're afraid that their teachers will be fired as a result.

From the Friends of Garfield Singers' report: "The alleged activity in the room occurred in the presence of 4 girls, and was stopped by them without a report to the teacher or chaperones. They later reported that they felt they had handled it, and they feared repercussions to Ms. Burton and the Choir program if they reported it."

The chaperones and teacher shouldn't have been drinking, but the district only found out about that because they were investigating sexual assault allegations.

IMHO said...

No need to raise a legal fund for her, WEA had contracts with attorneys just for teachers to use in these situations.

Anonymous said...

If she would not have been drinking on the trip,with chaperones, she would not be in this mess. The assault may still have happened and the district would only be dealing with that situation, and the students involved. The consumption of alcohol by a district employee is on the employee and only the employee. If teachers don't take responsibility for their actions, then how can we ever expect kids to?

Another teacher

Anonymous said...

Stu and another teacher -- this issue to me is not whether she broke the rules -- and whether some sort of discipline might be appropriate. It is whether, on balance, termination is the appropriate sanction.

Mr. Nyland signed a contract for multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars without getting board approval first -- and his "punishment" appears to have been the need to write a short breezy apology and promise not to do it again.

Downtown staff consistently violate policies, evidently with impunity, and there are no consequences whatsoever.

Two wrongs don't make a right, of course. And I would love to see some additional consequences for the many many things done by the downtown staff (up to and including the Superintendent) for THEIR failures -- but for the most part, I am not asking for them to be fired (I did think that one principal of an elementary school ought to have been terminated for egregious management problems, including retaliation against a whistle blower and a series of events that called into question, for me at least, his leadership abilities) -- but here?

If the students' press release is true -- the broken rule (on drinking) had nothing whatsoever to do, in any possible way, shape or form, with the harm that the boy caused. If that is the case, then we are saying that if NOTHING had happened -- they had all gone on a fabulously wonderful field trip, won lots of awards, etc. etc. etc. -- and two months after their return, a student happened to mention to Mr. Howard that the adults had a glass of wine at dinner -- that we think the appropriate response would have been to yank Ms. Burton out of class, suspend her, and ultimately terminate her teaching contract. I have to say -- I don't think so.

Also, with respect to co-ed socializing -- I suspect that it was NOT against any rule (but maybe I am wrong). Ordinarily, in hotels, management doesn't want huge groups of kids hanging out in the lobby all night. So they all find a room and hang out there. This was NOT a post curfew issue, or one where a student was in a boys' cabin unbeknownst to all the (sleeping) chaperones in the middle of the night.

There are plenty of variations here between "do nothing" and "fire her" for a violation of policy that did not result in any harm to a student -- particularly when the teacher appears to have done ALMOST everything right. I hope Mr. Nyland finds one of them. If he doesn't, he is an unbelievable hypocrite -- because although nothing happened when he signed an unauthorized contract for hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant money -- something certainly COULD have happened if the board hadn't later approved the deal and the grantor had sued. How is this different?

Jan

TechyMom said...

Thank you, Jan.
Let's not throw the book at this teacher because we've failed to hold others accountable for far greater mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Right on Jan

Merchant of Venice
Act IV scene I

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy
;


It seems Ms. Burton did an excellent job in educating students during most of 12 years.

What point would terminating her serve?

Is termination a reasonable decision?

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks this is a "Seattle" thing needs to read this story about a highly respected and world recognized teacher over a joke.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/06/19/the-deplorable-way-the-l-a-school-district-is-treating-the-worlds-most-famous-teacher-jay-mathews/

What is distressing are the comments that once again much like those here go down a rabbit hole of presumption of some guilt as they would not be "investigated" if there was not some problem..

Nice to know witch hunting is a professional hazard with teaching. Glad I don't teach anymore who would in their right mind.

- Ex Teach

Melissa Westbrook said...

as they would not be "investigated" if there was not some problem.. "

How do you know that? What if a student (or students) saw the chaperones drinking (or the one who appeared to have several drinks) and reported it to a parent(s) during the trip or after?

No one knows if the only reason we know of issues on the trip is the sexual incident. No one can say that with authority.

Jan, two wrongs don't make a right. BUT, that many of our Boards have looked the other way for senior leadership is a terrible thing. Nyland committed a grievous error and he knows it. But you see, the powers that be need Nyland in place to carry out what they want to do.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Also, Ex, Mr. Esquith was being called out for teaching in his classroom which I consider a fairly sacred thing so anyone calling a teacher - a respected and honored teacher - better have their ducks in a row.

Ms. Burton is not in the same situation BUT her career - as a whole - should be taken into account. The District would have to do a lot of word-wrangling to come up with a reason to exit her from Garfield. (And, they will have a LOT of explaining to do if it is true that the male student's past behavior was known at JSCEE and not passed on to Garfield leadership and teacher.)