Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Garfield Faces Another Alleged Sexual Assault Incident

Tears of frustration, anger and sadness filled my eyes when I finally learned why the choir teacher at Garfield had been put on administrative leave. ( I knew the teacher had been put on leave a month ago but did not know why.)

There was a Garfield choir field trip to New Orleans earlier this year and there was some kind of incident involving an alleged sexual assault on two girls.

Tomorrow, some Garfield students are planning to walk out of class and have a noon press conference. From their press release:

Garfield High School students will walk out on Wednesday in solidarity with the Garfield Choir teacher, Carol Burton, who has been recommended to be terminated by the Seattle School District due to events on a March Field Trip to New Orleans.

We as the Garfield student body cannot, and will not accept the decision to fire vocal music teacher Carol Burton. This decision will impede the musical education of hundreds of students, jeopardize the future of all choral music at Garfield, disregard the legacy of Ms. Burton’s fourteen years of instruction at Garfield, revoke the positive mentorship provided by Carol Burton, and dissemble an amazing and unique community. The District is sacrificing the well being and education of its students, and attempting to rob Garfield of yet another teacher in one year.


It is unclear to me the exact details of what happened and, of course, the District has said nothing. The students met with the Executive Director, Sarah Pritchett, who came off as condescending to students.

Here's what seems to be known:

- two girls were allegedly assault by one boy

- the girls told friends who then told the choir teacher as they were all at the airport about to leave. I don't know who the teacher reported this to beyond the District. It is not clear if any police department - either SPD or NOPD - was notified.

- the boy may have had a prior record of inappropriate contact in middle school but this was not info that either the teacher or chaperones appear to have known. He seems to have left Garfield.

- the District has done some sort of investigating because it appears the District found out the chaperones were lax in tracking who was in what room (boys and girls are supposed to stay out of each other's rooms).

- the District/Garfield pulled the teacher out of her classroom without explanation (and for some period of time, without a real substitute). Parents spent their own money to hire someone to sub for some event and lost money because their students in the choir could not attend an event.

I will attend the press conference and try to talk to students and administrators.

It is deeply disappointing and I have to wonder if perhaps the leadership at Garfield needs to be changed.

119 comments:

mirmac1 said...

What was Charles Wright and his PR crisis reaction team doing during this time? That was the only course correction JSCEE made after the Garfield case that came to a head last year.

Has the board decided, once again, that it's just he said, she said, she said?

ConcernedSPSParent said...

What nonsense will Peaslee be spouting this time?

Anonymous said...

I bet it feels wonderful for those two girls to know that their fellow students are willing to walk out to support them. Oh wait, they're walking out to support the teacher who was supervising when the alleged incident happened.

HF

Anonymous said...

Isn't the boy from the Garfield NatureBridge incident a senior this year? Was he on this trip?

Momof2

Anonymous said...

HF: not sure we will know what happened, or when we will find out, but it may be that the girls are on the side of the students walking out -- not against them. I have no facts, but think you are jumping to a conclusion. Or maybe you have facts that are not in Melissa's report of the story?

Older Wiser

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mom of 2, I believe that student has left Garfield as well. This alleged perpetrator was a freshman.

HF, some of what I was told about the Executive Director's meeting with the students was Ms. Pritchett trying to explain that the students may not fully understand the complete picture of what oversight is supposed to look like.

I'm sure an investigation could possibly reveal the weight of any one person's oversight (or lack thereof). The students may not themselves be aware of all the circumstances.

I have to wonder why this teacher would be exited when others were not in other incidents.

Anonymous said...

Valid point, Older Wiser. Mine was a gut reaction, not based on any more evidence. But it sure would be nice to see students come out in force to support student safety, too, wouldn't it?

HF

Anonymous said...

HF,
It wouldn't even keep students totally safe if we kept them in our house and didn't let them out. Something could still happen.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

What isn't clear to me is whether Ms. Burton is in trouble for a reporting issue or some failure to support the students reporting the issue (which would seem surprising -- but I can't tell from Melissa's report), and if so, whether it was a major miss, or a minor one. The other possibility is that this was a failure to correctly instruct or supervise her chaperones. Again, if so, was it a major miss on her part, or a minor one where she is just being held strictly liable for their lapses or failures, regardless of how hard she tried, or what she did.

The last possibility is that this is an "under the bus" move by those higher up (downtown or at Garfield) who have decided that since this is the 2nd time, a head has to roll, and she is just the scapegoat. A very troubling thought -- and so one I hope is not true.

I agree with you on the student support thing. I hope the students are doing the right thing all the way around, because it sounded to me like maybe some did not in the Naturebridge incident.

Older Wiser

Anonymous said...

"Mine was a gut reaction, not based on any more evidence."

As usual in these matters. WSDWG

mirmac1 said...

How funny to hear Pritchett say that! HaHa!

HF, last year many Garfield grads and students came out in support of student safety. I know because my daughter and I stood with them.

GHSmom, I don't disagree. Part of the findings from the incidents over the last three years have been that downtown did not due what Title IX requires of them. So rather than let the crapshow be about the supervising teacher, let's also examine what was the follow up.

A teacher and chaperones can do everything right, yet something can happen. I believe we should expect the best effort of everyone involved and weigh the evidence with that in mind. My impulse would be to afford a long-term, highly-regarded teacher some consideration - but based on the preventative and procedural measures taken in advance of the trip.

mirmac1 said...

do not due! Argh!

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should just cancel all field trips. Or. Kids can go on field trips with parents. Wouldn't that be just swell?

Reader

Charlie Mas said...

The actions and decisions of individuals in the system - students and teachers - are not ultimately under the District's control and do not reflect on the District; they reflect on those individuals. There will be a wide range of actions - some good, some bad.

The actions of District officials, acting in their role as District officials, are what reflect on the District.

So there are two questions for discussion here. One is about the actions of the people on the field trip: What did the students do and what did the teachers do? That discussion, however, is personal to those individuals. The other question is: What did the District do? That discussion is broader.

How did - or will - the District comply with their own policies and procedures about field trips and reports of sexual harassment?

How did - or will - the District comply with the requirements of Title IX in the wake of such a report?

Will people be held accountable for their actions, inactions, and non-compliance with policies and procedures? Will people be commended for their actions, inactions, and compliance with policies and procedures?

What changes will the District make to policies and procedures following this experience?

These are the questions which are not a private matter but a public one.

dj said...

My middle-school student went on a weekend field trip this year. When she brought home the chaperone papers, I gently explained to her that there was no way that I was going to be put in a position where I would be held responsible for the behavior of teenagers. I remember what happened on our various field trips when I was a teenager, and it is hard for me to imagine that much could have been prevented short of stationing an awake adult in each hotel room.

I do not know what happened here and perhaps there is something very obvious that the teacher did wrong that, if I knew about, would make me say, she was really irresponsible. But the overall sense I get from these incidents is that the expectation is that if the incident happened, the supervising adult should have prevented it, and as a result I am not going anywhere near one of these trips.

Anonymous said...

If the a student had a history of sexual assault, then it is on the district to notify the teacher before the field trip & set up extra safe-guards. Maybe that student should not go on field trips, or should have a 1-on-1 supervisor constantly. Is firing the teacher a cya move to protect district staff?

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

Good for the Garfield Students! I support their walkout! Bullying dedicated teachers is NOT the way to improve education in the district.

-SPSparent

Anonymous said...

Yes, I was going to post was HS Parent said above. MW posted: "the boy may have had a prior record of inappropriate contact in middle school." If these allegations are true, was the teacher informed? She certainly should not be held responsible for the behavior of a child with a previous issue (assuming she didn't know). If she did know, that's a different issue.

This situation brings a further question to mind. I would NEVER send my child on an overnight field trip that included a child who behaved inappropriately with/to another child in the past. I understand that the alleged perpetrator has rights to privacy, but other children have rights to remain harassment/abuse free and I think their rights trump a previous abuser's rights. So, how can this be handled when we are talking about kids? I am not a lawyer, and I understand that people shouldn't be marked forever based on a single crime, but often these types of crimes are the ones that happen more than once.

-pudding

Eric M said...

A few years back, I had a very threatening student dumped in my class. After he screamed at me for asking him to get out a piece of paper, I learned to go nowhere near him (students had already figured this out right away, of course). He was that scary. I was talking to another teacher after about a month of this crazy situation, and he said, "Oh yeah. That kid was removed from school most of last year because he threatened to kill his teacher. To her face."

Did I get an email or post-it with a warning about this? Of course not. Seems absurd. He was, straight up, the most potentially dangerous student I ever had in 30 years (even including that funny one that went to prison for beating a guy nearly to death with a pipe) But you can bet if it was YOUR kid, you'd consider hiring a lawyer with a fancy suit and fight the district to keep it quiet. "Give the little guy another chance."

So parents, that's the question.
Honest answers please. I hope we all feel for the victims here. I know I do. That's NOT my question.

My question is: What if your little precious was the raper? What would you fight for then?

I'm pretty sure I know the answer.

Some parents would allow the kid to take the full measure of the hit, as meted out by the juvenile justice system.

There's absolutely another group of parents that would do anything to excuse it and make it go away. Perhaps with some good motivation: keep the kid out of the "justice" system, give another chance.

And there you are. Don't tell the teacher anything.

Anonymous said...

Any high school teacher taking a group of students on a field trip should assume that some of them have been sexually assaulted in the past, that some of them have committed acts of sexual violence in the past, and that additional students are likely to experience one or both in the near future. The statistics aren't pretty. While it might feel reassuring to think that a teacher has background info on a particular student with a history, there are likely to be other kids who have similar histories but for whom there is no official criminal record or any way for the district/teacher to know. Adults responsible for these trips need to exercise the same level of caution whether they "know" or past incidents or not. This does not, of course, mean that anyone expects any guarantees of safety. It just means there need to be rules and safeguards in place, and they need to be adhered to. It's about minimizing the risks, not eliminating them.

HF

Anonymous said...

Totally agree w/HF - "It's about minimizing the risks, not eliminating them" - no one can be in all places at all times, and things WILL happen, even under the most stringent of care. Without knowing the unknowable details, its hard to say if this teacher is being made a scapegoat or not but its great that the kids are standing up for her.

reader47

Anonymous said...

@ WSDWG, your response to my comment yesterday bothered me all night... I find it very interesting (and disturbing) that my gut reaction to feel bad for the alleged victims in this case elicited such a response from you, while the gut reactions of everyone else here to unquestioningly support the teacher in this case doesn't merit a similar response. I made no proclamations about whether or not the teacher did or did not do a good job in this case, and I--unlike so many out there--don't feel I have near enough information to render judgement. However, it's very true that the majority of discussion on this blog has centered on the poor teacher and her fate. There was an earlier thread on it, that included a lot of passionate defense of the teacher, as well as a lot of "kids will be kids" (aka "shit happens") attitude. People seem perfectly willing to just accept this sort of thing as the way it is, which seems bizarre to me.

I'm all for calls to ensure that a teacher (whether popular or not) is not thrown under the bus to make admin look like they're being responsible, and as I said before, I hope that if this was a case of wrongful termination that the teacher sues the pants off SPS. But I'm also saddened to see that the moral outrage people feel seems to focus more on the teacher's discipline than on the fact that we once again have another allegation of sexual assault. I feel no shame in letting my emotions rule for a moment and writing that I feel bad for what I imagine these girls are going through, even though I might not fully understand their situation. But I do hope they aren't reading this blog, because if they are they probably think most people care primarily about what happened to the teacher, and little about what allegedly happened to them.

HF

Anonymous said...

Obviously there are no guarantees. My question still remains - if a kid has a known history, should they still have the same rights as other kids to go on overnight field trips? Should the teacher be kept in the dark? Eric's story above is scary. Teachers have a right and reasonable expectation to be safe, too. It sounds like maybe this teacher will lose their job over this kid and they may not even have known this kid's history.

You hear these same types of stories in the education world: the teacher who was moved because of "problems" at the school, the coach transferred for an unknown reason, the student who was forced to changed schools mid-year. It's scary that these types of people can keep hurting others because the higher ups are scared of lawsuits. It's a tricky issue.

You can't eliminate risk, but you can decide not to take known perpetrators on a field trip. Common sense needs to factor in somewhere.

-pudding

Anonymous said...

MW: "I have to wonder why this teacher would be exited when others were not in other incidents."

I wonder about that too.

The teachers in charge of the GHS NatureBridge field trip two years ago (where a student was sexually assaulted by a peer) admitted that they had not read the field trip policies they were supposed to enforce. The chaperones admitted that they couldn't control the students, who slept in adjacent unlocked cabins. The assistant principal admitted that he signed off on the trip paperwork that listed no male chaperone. The school administrators said they did not authorize the teachers bringing their small children along on the trip, which they did anyway.

Were these teachers and administrators ever disciplined for any of this? Not that I know of. The district "investigated" and exonerated all of them.

Without knowing anything about the current incident, I have the impression that this teacher is suffering the consequences of all of the bad administrative decisions from the NatureBridge trip.

I wonder too about whether the District implemented its Title IX responsibilities after this incident. Or is it all being swept under the rug? Again.

Adam

mirmac1 said...

A student with serious behavioral issues should have a behavior intervention plan. ALL her/his teachers should be aware of, and implement this plan. The plan should cover field trips and the steps necessary to protect the student and other students.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One issue that I want to ask about today is why the girls chose the time to tell the teacher.

I can understand waiting way after the fact. They were in a hotel room with the boy which was against the rules so there's that. Maybe they felt they had caused it by allowing him in (or going to his room). Maybe they knew someone might tell the teacher and wanted to tell her before anyone else. Or maybe they knew telling her at the last minute as they got on a plane meant no police (at least for the time being).

I also was told that the girls were told to keep quiet or it would hurt the program/teacher. And, that it wasn't a bad incident, but rather "molestation."

Shades of the Duggars.

I can only say that none of us gets to decide what was a crime or what was serious or not. That's a legal issue and I hope no one tried to persuade these girls to keep quiet.

Anonymous said...

Megan's law. One can't take prudent action to protect against threats that are not known or not able to be legally known.

If dangerous students can be in school, without the knowledge of their history to teachers or parents, why would you send your child to school?

Good thing there is a law that 12 year olds have to sit in the back seat of a car, but in school, potentially any one of 500 students could have a severe criminal past and it is legally mandated to be hidden?

The legislature needs to fix this.

-NNNCr

Anonymous said...

A year ago blog writers wanted the adults on the Garfield trip metaphorically drawn and quartered. Now that a similar incident has happened in a popular program to a popular teacher, not so much. Title IX does need to be enforced. But with consistency and compassion for the victim(s) and for those associated with the incident. Further, the severest of consequences belong on any proven aggressor9s). These are always thorny cases, but being the judge and jury from blogland is unlikely to help resolve a sad and difficult episode. The fact that this is also political, with a prominent principal no doubt worried about keeping his job, makes investigation and justice that much more difficult for district and law enforcement authorities. We don't know the details of this incident, nor is it our right to know. If the victims or those being disciplined wish to speak openly, fine. Otherwise we need to back off IMHO.



balance please

Anonymous said...

I suppose the teacher is secondary to the main detail, is the New Orleans Police Dept. charging the assaulter?

-NNNCr

Anonymous said...

Adam - you are flat out wrong about what you are saying about the Naturebridge trip. Please don't write about things of which, you clearly have limited knowledge.
GHS Parent

Anonymous said...

Hello,
I work at the school and this is a very complicated case that is about more than the incident that is being discussed above. Our school administration is not to blame. Mistakes were made on many different levels. The final question though is: should a teacher be terminated after a variety of mis-steps have come to light? Does this consequence fit what actually happened? The majority of students, parents and staff who do know the details do not think this is fair or progressive discipline. Please understand all the facts before making any judgements and it will not help the school or teacher to rush to conclusions. Thanks.
Staff member

Melissa Westbrook said...

"A year ago blog writers wanted the adults on the Garfield trip metaphorically drawn and quartered. Now that a similar incident has happened in a popular program to a popular teacher, not so much."

Okay, I am the blog writer here (along with Charlie and occasional contributors). None of us wanted the teachers to be "metaphorically drawn and quartered." We wanted them - and whoever trained them to be chaperones - to be held accountable.

I am advocating for the same for whatever teachers were on this trip, popular or not. In fact, I have made that clear to my sources who seem to want the story to be "save the teacher."

"We don't know the details of this incident, nor is it our right to know."

What? Yes, we do because it's a public school district. I'm not sure how you missed that.

GHS parent, what part did Adam get wrong about the Naturebridge trip. Because my recollection of the investigation seems to be right with what he said. Naturally, we don't know if the teachers on that trip were disciplined in any way because that's a "personnel" issue.

Elmer said...

"How did - or will - the District comply with the requirements of Title IX in the wake of such a report?"

Newby here - what does the preceding sentence mean? It was taken from a comment above.

Thank you

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Mother, how do you know they were not disciplined? Because there could be a letter in their work file about their role in the NatureBridge incident.

Elmer, sexual harassment/assault around school issues is part of the federal Title IX legislation. All states/districts are supposed to have a plan and know the policy. In a previous incident involving yet another field trip where a sexual assault is alleged to have happened, the school had not followed Title IX process nor had the district.

Anonymous said...

Mother. You have a legal obligation to no longer discuss this case. I will report you to the district if you don't delete you last comment.
GHS Parent

Anonymous said...

Our child recently went on an overnight school field trip (different school) and from what I remember of the paper work, it seemed to absolve the school, chaperones, and district for just about everything should something go wrong. I almost hesitated signing the paperwork. If a child was to do something against the student code of conduct they were to be sent home ASAP. I have no knowledge of what happened in the Garfield situation, but if the students waited until they were leaving to notify the adults, they potentially protected the other student from being sent home early or facing other consequences during the trip.

As a parent, it would be helpful to know what teachers and chaperones are supposed to do in various situations so I can stress to my child the importance of immediately reporting to an adult. I think it may be difficult for some children to know when to keep quiet and when to speak up, and we may have different ideas of what rises to the level of needing to be reported.

-parent

mirmac1 said...

Holy crap GHS Parent, are you the Garfield reputation police now? Are we to take your statements as fact - now that the district has silenced your rebutter?

Letters of discipline are public records. Anyone can request them.

David said...

GHS Parent, shame on you.

take pause said...

I know a little bit more about this than probably any of you who are commenting (even parents of kids that were there), and the biggest thing I can suggest to people on matters like this is simply this: STOP SPECULATING. It's not helpful, and unless you really know everything that happened, you're just fanning flames.

At this point, these are personal/personnel issues, not district policy issues, curricular issues, etc. If Ms. Burton wants to fight the charges, then much will come out in public, and discussions will be fair game, but unless/until that happens, do teachers (or students?) have any right to privacy at all anymore? These conversations are public and will last for generations.

Melissa, I think this blog is the single best resource for school-related information and activism in our city, and probably even the region. But I do wonder if there are times when certain news (I'm thinking personnel-related) could be posted by you, but with comments disabled, at least until such time as you can determine the full disposition of the matter. That might keep people from stepping all over each other in the rush to comment on matters that they really don't know about, which in personnel matters can be damaging. And yes people, having a little knowledge can be worse than knowing nothing at all.

Not everything related to schools needs to be a public conversation from the get-go.

This is not to say that anything should be swept under the carpet indefinitely either, just that a little care about what kind of conversations take place might be prudent. This is a very different situation than NatureBridge, and thus far none of the involved parties (to my knowledge) has decided to respond in a way to take the matter public.

Benjamin Leis said...

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Drinking-groping-allegations-follow-Garfield-HS-field-trip-to-New-Orleans-306811981.html

"A teacher at Seattle's Garfield High School has been put on administrative leave after allegations surfaced of heavy drinking among staff and chaperones and a student groping other students during a school-sponsored trip to New Orleans in March.

Students reported they saw their teacher and chaperones drinking alcohol while on their bus, and at night on other occasions. In one instance, a chaperone was so drunk they had to be helped back to their room, and a chaperone was "alleged to have engaged in inappropriate contact with a student," while drinking, a school district spokesperson said. It's unclear how many chaperones were involved.

In addition, a report surfaced that a male student groped two female students at night in a New Orleans hotel room. "

This sounds like its very much going to be in the public domain since there is a press conference at 2pm today.

I'm trying to not speculate too much but after the last incident I do tend to hold the administration / field trips to a higher standard and am worried that we have a systemic problem that has not been fixed.

Anonymous said...

"A student with serious behavioral issues should have a behavior intervention plan"

Teachers should not be subjected to abuse, I don't care if there's a plan or not. Dangerous students need a unique educational setting where they and everyone else are safe, unfortunately that place is not a regular SPS classroom.

I can hardly believe people are advocating to keep sexual predictors attending SPS. This has got to stop!


Stop abuse

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Teachers and/or chaperones were possibly drinking while tasked with supervising students? This is a school trip, for crying out loud, not vacation with friends. That is negligence and utter disregard for the safety of students.

-speechless

Anonymous said...

When I mentioned [to a current GHS parent] that it is alleged there was drinking going on among the chaperones, she said, "We're all human, aren't we?"

What?! Look, if that represents the general attitude of parents, then it is no surprise that rules get broken and ignored. Even more frustrating is that these events may seriously limit field trip opportunities for those that do follow the rules.

-incensed

take pause said...

This sounds like its very much going to be in the public domain since there is a press conference at 2pm today.

Yes, it appears much will be revealed sooner than I would have expected. Thanks for the update Benjamin.

I still think there are times when stories could be posted with comments disabled, just to avoid all the potentially damaging speculation in personnel matters, but this one looks like it's going to be all out in the open soon enough.

Did the students follow through with their walkout? I wonder if any of them will be rethinking their position when everything is public.

mirmac1 said...

Sorry Stop Abuse. I'm not "advocating to keep sexual predictors(sic) attending SPS" The law requires it. And the District must do its job identifying students with behavioral issues (not all are predators or even dangerous) and have plans in place to address WHERE to educate them, WHEN they can be with other students, and HOW they will receive their mandated education.

You say you don't care if there's a plan or not, you won't follow it. Teachers like you shouldn't be in any classroom.

Anonymous said...

There are two threads clearly here. One where information about a Student's mental health and criminal history is of issue and puts both student's and faculty at risk.

The other is the behavior of the staff and chaperones on the trip which may or may not have contributed to the behavior by students and regardless is a violation of district policy and state law.

When this blog witch hunts as it does it really shows what this blog is - one of opinion and histrionics and not facts, research and data which it claims and aspires to be.

This should have been posted after the news release and press conference and in turn disable comments to discourage the smearing, slamming and fighting. But then again this would not be as fun to watch

- Stop the talk

Patrick said...

Eric M., in answer to your hypothetical question, if I had a child with a history of committing sexual assault and I wasn't really sure he/she was over it by years of observation, I'd be keeping my child home from overnight field trips.

I'd be a shame, because field trips can be great experiences, but it would be an even bigger shame for every student in the District to lose them permanently.

ChoirMom said...

So despite the fact that the district has repeatedly told parents and students that they can't say anything, they are now clearly feeding info to the press. I guess they consider the students' request to have their teacher back to be a declaration of war and they are going to burn down the school and district in response.

I was at the students' press conference. They did an amazing job, especially the young woman who fielded questions from the media. I heard a media person say, while asking a question, that the male student was assigned to sleep in a room with female students. That is unequivocally untrue. My son roomed with the male student and said he was in his bed every night and still there every morning. I actually had heard this rumor back in April, it was being repeated around school by students who were not even in choir, much less on the trip. I hope media people will be responsible and stop circulating such a nasty, false rumor as fact.

Melissa Westbrook said...

First of all, breaking news is breaking news. I knew the basic facts to be true; another Garfield field trip went wrong because of inappropriate sexual contact and the lead teacher was put on administrative leave.

Parents and community do have a right to weigh in. Our district already went thru this once before at the same school. It's right to ask questions. It's right - for parents - to weigh in on their concerns about field trips for their children. It's right - for teachers - to weigh in on what they worry about with field trips with students.



Melissa Westbrook said...

And, the district is NOT releasing the full investigation report on their own - you have to file to get access. Knowing the district as I do, that could be a week to months.

ChoirMom said...

I note that your newest post says the following:

"One of the students' main issues is the "outdated" rules about same sex students in the room. They said the boy in question was gay and did not/was not wanted in his assigned room."

That is not what I heard from the student. I believe she said the BOY did not want to be in a room with straight males. Their point about the rule being outdated is not about whether students are assigned to sleep in same-sex rooms, but the rule about students never being allowed into the room of a student of the opposite sex for anything, including watching TV, playing card games, or just hanging out as a group.

In any case, the student was assigned to a same-sex room on the first night, the other boys in the room complained and he was moved to another same-sex room (my son's). The issue of not wanting him in their room had nothing to do with him being gay. That idea is actually laughable if you know anything about the student body at GHS. The boy roomed in my son's room the rest of the trip. There was no point when a boy was rooming with girls. That rumor needs to die a quick death.

Anonymous said...

...if I had a child with a history of committing sexual assault and I wasn't really sure he/she was over it by years of observation, I'd be keeping my child home from overnight field trips.

Wait. You think a CHILD with a history of sexual assault (and likely also a history as an abuse victim) should be reported to parents of all the other kids in the school so they can all observe that kid closely for years before deeming them ok? What if it's just allegations? Or if the kid has been in therapy for years already? Should there be a statute of limitations from the original incident, or should every parent get their three watchful years from the time they first meet the child? What about if someone just has a hunch about a student, but there's no official history yet? If you're really that afraid about sending your child on a fieldtrip with a student with a history, you should just keep them home form all overnight trips now. More likely than not there's someone who has an undocumented history.

If parents are so worried about their kids' safety on overnight field trips that they won't send them because a certain, maybe a better approach is to step up and volunteer to chaperone. I disagree that you're taking on too much liability by doing so--what you're taking on is a lot of additional responsibility. You have to err on the side of caution in providing oversight, reporting, etc., and you have to uphold a certain standard of behavior. None of that should be a surprise, nor should it be a hardship--it's part of the job duties of chaperoning. Chaperoning is hard, tiring work. You might not get much sleep. The fieldtrip might not be that fun for you. But you're supposed to be doing it for the kids, not yourself. Similarly, a teacher who closely adheres to all the rules and procedures for a fieldtrip and exercises good judgement in oversight (of students and chaperones) is likely to be safe from trouble, even in the event an incident occurs.

HF

ChoirMom said...

For crying out loud, HF, learn to read before you go off on someone for saying something that they DID NOT SAY. Go on, go back and read Eric M's question, then read the response from Patrick, then eat crow.

there's more said...

More press coverage:

http://www.kplu.org/post/seattle-schools-investigating-drinking-groping-during-garfield-high-field-trip

Melissa Westbrook said...

"In any case, the student was assigned to a same-sex room on the first night, the other boys in the room complained and he was moved to another same-sex room (my son's)."

I did not say - at any point - that a boy was rooming with a girl. I was told the boy was not wanted in the room he was originally assigned to which is what you said(I find this interesting given how tight-knit the students in choir say that they are.) Okay, so he moved to another room.

BUT the students at the press conference said this issue of LGBT students having to stay in same sex rooms WAS a major issue. Were you there? Because I was and you are welcome to go ask any of the students who spoke there.

"..if I had a child with a history of committing sexual assault and I wasn't really sure he/she was over it by years of observation, I'd be keeping my child home from overnight field trips.

Wait. You think a CHILD with a history of sexual assault (and likely also a history as an abuse victim) should be reported to parents of all the other kids in the school so they can all observe that kid closely for years before deeming them ok?"

How did you get "report to parents of all other kids" from "I'd be keeping my child home?" Let's be fair.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's a tip I use:

Read the comments out loud. It slows you down and makes you read for content. Some of you are not doing that.

ChoirMom said...

Yes, I was there. You misunderstood the student who was speaking. She was not talking about changing rules so that same-sex students can room together. She was saying that in this day and age, with everything we know about human sexuality and gender, to think that a rule like "no boys can ever go into a girls' room and vice versa" somehow makes it less likely that students will engage in sexual behavior or are more protected from sexual assault is to deny reality. There is no good reason to keep students of the opposite sex from socializing in each others' rooms if the goal is to stop sexual activity or misconduct, which could happen just as easily (in fact, more so under current rules) among students of the same sex. The kids know this, and the teachers who work with students today know this, and parents who aren't still working from an outdated idea of sex being only something that happens between people of the opposite sex know this.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas often writes about the Board's duties of making policy and enforcing policy.

If a school employee brings a loaded handgun onto school property - contract termination is very likely.

I wonder what consequences there are for failure to fulfill duties of a chaperone.

If a school employee fails to supervise students on an overnight trip, what are the consequences?

Are there any consequences for parent chaperones who fail to supervise on a over night student trip?

By "fail to supervise" I mean failure to fulfill the duties specified in the chaperone contract. Drinking alcohol is certainly a failure.

-- Dan Dempsey

mirmac1 said...

I agree Melissa. Stop Abuse took quite a leap there.

Patrick said...

HF, what? I didn't say anything about mandatory reporting to other parents. I was saying what I would do as a parent if my own son or daughter had been a perpetrator of sexual assault in the past. I think that's the question Eric M. was asking.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac1

"You say you don't care if there's a plan or not, you won't follow it. Teachers like you shouldn't be in any classroom."

Wow I guess it's your way or the highway? We would lose a lot of teachers follow that guide.

If a student has a case of simple anxiety or withdrawal issues, I'm there for them, but I draw the line at violence and or threats of violence. If other students are afraid in the classroom how can they learn? I'm thankful for not having to have experience being assaulted by a student and hope to keep it that way.

My comment about allowing student sexual predators in schools was not pointed at you personally. If in fact allowing sexual predators in SPS classrooms is the law, then we need to change the law.

Stop Abuse

Anonymous said...

Hold on here here's what happened


Any high school teacher taking a group of students on a field trip should assume that some of them have been sexually assaulted in the past, that some of them have committed acts of sexual violence in the past, and that additional students are likely to experience one or both in the near future. The statistics aren't pretty. While it might feel reassuring to think that a teacher has background info on a particular student with a history, there are likely to be other kids who have similar histories but for whom there is no official criminal record or any way for the district/teacher to know. Adults responsible for these trips need to exercise the same level of caution whether they "know" or past incidents or not. This does not, of course, mean that anyone expects any guarantees of safety. It just means there need to be rules and safeguards in place, and they need to be adhered to. It's about minimizing the risks, not eliminating them.

HF

Blogger Eric M said...

A few years back, I had a very threatening student dumped in my class. After he screamed at me for asking him to get out a piece of paper, I learned to go nowhere near him (students had already figured this out right away, of course). He was that scary. I was talking to another teacher after about a month of this crazy situation, and he said, "Oh yeah. That kid was removed from school most of last year because he threatened to kill his teacher. To her face."

Did I get an email or post-it with a warning about this? Of course not. Seems absurd. He was, straight up, the most potentially dangerous student I ever had in 30 years (even including that funny one that went to prison for beating a guy nearly to death with a pipe) But you can bet if it was YOUR kid, you'd consider hiring a lawyer with a fancy suit and fight the district to keep it quiet. "Give the little guy another chance."

mirmac1 said...

A student with serious behavioral issues should have a behavior intervention plan. ALL her/his teachers should be aware of, and implement this plan. The plan should cover field trips and the steps necessary to protect the student and other students.

"A student with serious behavioral issues should have a behavior intervention plan"

Teachers should not be subjected to abuse, I don't care if there's a plan or not. Dangerous students need a unique educational setting where they and everyone else are safe, unfortunately that place is not a regular SPS classroom.

I can hardly believe people are advocating to keep sexual predators (fixed) attending SPS. This has got to stop!


Stop abuse


How is that a leap?


Stop abuse

Melissa Westbrook said...

ChoirMom, we'll have to split the difference. I heard what you said but I perceive she was talking about outmoded rooming situations as well. They would not answer many questions so it was hard to get exactly what they were saying.

Certainly, something could happen between any two students. But if this is an issue, have them go to common areas to talk/hangout. But having kids going from room to room unfettered is a recipe for trouble.

Stop abuse, you just co-joined comments that had nothing to do with HF's comment.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Sexual predation starts somewhere. It is an ugly and terribly sad reality. I have worked in a facility where students who exhibited grooming behavior were sent for treatment. Only on my LAST DAY AT THAT JOB did another teacher alert me to him, just as I was allowing this nice young man to take my charge, a twelve year old boy, to the restroom (since I am female, I cannot supervise toileting). "Don't let him take XXXXXX to the restroom. He might try to molest him." I had been there for months and no one said a word until then.

I want you to know, it was infuriating to me that no one had told me about how to interpret this student's "kindness" and the danger it presented to the other student's in the program. My student most certainly could have been assaulted due to my ignorance of the "groomer's" past and potential for abusing others. And that makes me angry. However, I wasn't told about him because the "groomer" was not on my case load. FERPA prohibits informing me, or giving me a heads up unless I am directly linked to his education or care. The law limits who is told what about whom.

Clinically, the "groomer" couldn't help his behavior, which is why he was placed in the facility's care. This young man hated the way he was. He hated that he behaved in that way, and it angered him to the point of violence when he was stopped mid "groom". It saddened me to see him suffering while wrestling with being that way. He was just a boy.

There is a difference between receiving notification in order to use caution and remain observant, and receiving notification in order to ostracize and/or lash out in some aggressive or micro-aggressive way. These are kids. But the behavior of grooming and abusing isn't easily "cured" if even curable. It is sad. Really, sad.

-catch22

Anonymous said...

Patrick said...
"HF, what? I didn't say anything about mandatory reporting to other parents. I was saying what I would do as a parent if my own son or daughter had been a perpetrator of sexual assault in the past. I think that's the question Eric M. was asking."

Yes, thank you, Patrick, for your reasonable response. Obviously I misinterpreted your statement and I apologize for that. I initially read it more as "say there's a child with a history..., then I'd keep my own child home." Since Eric M had also mentioned having a kid with issues in his classroom, I took "having a kid" in the more general sense.

HF

PS - ChoirMom, there's no shame in misinterpreting something, or in admitting an honest mistake. There will be no eating of crow. Sorry to disappoint.

Anonymous said...

What is the union doing to help the teacher?


SEA member

mirmac1 said...

Stop Abuse, you clarified that I was not advocating keeping sexual predators in the classroom. Thank you. The leap was as follows:

My post was in response to pudding's question: My question still remains - if a kid has a known history, should they still have the same rights as other kids to go on overnight field trips? Should the teacher be kept in the dark?

My response was to paraphrase 34 CFR §300.530(f), which reads in part:

(f) Determination that behavior was a manifestation. If the LEA, the parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team make the determination that the conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP Team must—
(1) Either—
(i) Conduct a functional behavioral assessment, unless the LEA had conducted a functional behavioral assessment before the behavior that resulted in the change of placement occurred, and implement a behavioral intervention plan for the child; or
(ii) If a behavioral intervention plan already has been developed, review the behavioral intervention plan, and modify it, as necessary, to address the behavior; and
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (g) of this section, return the child to the placement from which the child was removed, unless the parent and the LEA agree to a change of placement as part of the modification of the behavioral intervention plan.
(g) Special circumstances. School personnel may remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days without regard to whether the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability, if the child...(3) Has inflicted serious bodily injury
upon another person while at school, on school premises, or at a school function under the jurisdiction of an SEA or an LEA.

From there you stated that, to hell with the law you (and presumably other school personnel) wouldn't follow it; and that it appeared you thought I was advocating for sexual predators in classrooms. Ergo, the leap and my assertion that perhaps a career move was advisable.

Anonymous said...

I am so saddened by this. The choir director is a wonderful person and teacher. She built the GHS choral program from scratch. But in light of the Nature Bridge trip and fall out from it, the chaperones and teacher needed to follow the rules for over night field trips to the letter. This means NO alcohol consumption by any of the adults and close supervision of students. Are the rule infractions-alleged groping and chaperone drinking- egregious enough to warrant termination of the teacher? I don't know but I cannot convey how very disappointing this whole incident is.

Alum parent

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Alum parent is reposting for anonymous. Please read the blog rules and pick a moniker. Your comment will be deleted.

First off, there are a few things that have been said here that are absolutely
untrue. The two victims never directly told their choir director at any point. They confided in a close friend, who then told Burton out of concern for his classmate's safety (God forbid the perpetrator ended up sitting next to one of the girls on the airplane). Also, the girls were never told to keep quiet about what happened to them by Burton, the administration, or anyone else. They have (understandably) kept the incident private. Thirdly, the perpetrator was not a freshman.

As for the press conference, I have a question for those who attended: it was my understanding that a statement of one or both of the victims was read aloud. Is this true, and if so what did the statement entail?

6/10/15, 7:54 PM

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will write a separate thread on the press conference today. The students were very careful to pick and choose what they would address but yes, there was a statement about the victims.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with a previous poster who said that that the choir director is a wonderful person and teacher. She cares very deeply about her students. I no longer have students at GHS and have no first hand knowledge of events in New Orleans. I do know, however, how much the choir teacher has done to support students and their families and hope that SPS administrators look at the big picture.

another alum parent

ChoirMom said...

Melissa, there is no splitting the difference here. Do you know that young woman? I do, as well as probably half the kids you saw today. I am telling you that you misunderstood her. I can ask her to clarify if you want to continue to doubt me. No, she did not answer every question directed at her, which is entirely her right. Many of those questions were not really ones a student should be trying to address anyway (and at least one question asked about a false rumor, as I mentioned above) and she was smart to deflect those. Also the students were in their lunch hour, attempting to not miss any school, so they did not have all day to answer questions. That young woman did a phenomenal job as did all the students who spoke. I was impressed at how well they managed speaking to a potentially hostile media group (given that we now know some in the media had apparently been primed by half-truths from the district). If she didn't answer everything as clearly as you wanted her to, it's up to you to seek clarification rather than assume you know what she meant. You have her name.

Charlie Mas said...

So what do we have after all of the shouting and speculation back and forth? It's not all that complicated.

1) The District has reason to suspect that chaperones violated the field trip procedures and they are investigating. Is there a set procedure for such an investigation? Is there a budget for this? It's unclear to me when the District chooses to launch an investigation into policy and procedure violations and when they don't. Is this how they will respond to all reported procedure violations in the future?

1a) If the chaperones were staff, and it can be shown that they violated the procedures, will they be held accountable in an appropriate way - neither too lenient nor too draconian? What rules govern that? I would guess that the collective bargaining agreement dictates. Will the consequences be similar to those imposed when chaperones violated field trip procedures in the past (presuming, of course, that any chaperones have ever violated any field trip procedures in the past)?

1b) If the chaperones were not staff, and it can be shown that they violated the procedures, can they be held accountable at all or will they simply be disqualified from serving as chaperone in future?

2) The District has two reports of sexual harassment/assault. We know that there are procedures in place to respond to such reports. The District and the district staff - including the teachers and chaperones on the field trip - should follow those procedures and be held accountable if they violate them. Does anyone want to dispute that?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I was impressed at how well they managed speaking to a potentially hostile media group (given that we now know some in the media had apparently been primed by half-truths from the district)."

Who was hostile? I actually thought she was somewhat hostile especially in her remark that we couldn't understand how kids think today. (Naturally I don't take offense. because I know she's a teenager and they all think anyone older than 25 doesn't know anything.) I also know those media people and they are good folks.

So you have seen the district's report? Because I haven't so I don't know how you know what they have said are "half-truths." I had barely read any of the press release and none of my questions were based on it.

SingersMom said...

Ms. Burton is perhaps the most caring and passionate teacher I have run across over the duration of 29 years raising three kids. She literally turns kids lives around and puts them on a positive trajectory - I say this from first hand experience as the mom of a student who is not particularly musically gifted. Burton is a truly a miracle worker. I attended all the pre-travel meetings for the New Orleans trip along with another parent who actually chaperoned the trip. Students and chaperones were very clearly communicated with regarding the rules of the trip. Students were allowed to weigh in on the details of the rules. The planning was thorough. The rules were solid. Each traveler signed the very tightly written contract re behavior and obligations before traveling. From my perspective, the real problem lays with chaperones and students not reporting an issue at the time of the development of one. Since chaperones and students were reluctant to "tell" during incident number one, at least one more incident ensued. If chaperones had fulfilled their duties per the letter of their contract (for instance, being diligent about checking rooms thoroughly at appointed times every day, and unwilling to bend rules to accommodate the problem boy the way he wanted to be accommodated) none of this would have happened. Ms. Burton was the last to be informed of any problems developing - students and chaperones did not want to let her know they had not fulfilled their duties and hoped the problems would dissipate / evaporate before she needed to get involved. Too bad, because GHS is losing perhaps its most impactful and life-changing teacher. SPS owes it to its students and Ms. Burton to fight harder and investigate deeper to find a way to avert this tragic loss.

Anonymous said...

SingersMom, perhaps I missed it in all of the above, but was Ms. Burton DRINKING along with some of these chaperones? That is what the reporter was saying on the radio this morning as I drove my kid to school. Even without the sexual assault issue, if any ADULTS in charge were drinking on the job, they SHOULD be removed. Ms. Burton might be the most wonderful teacher on the planet, but if she was drinking or allowed chaperones to drink while they were supervising kids on a school trip, she doesn't deserve to have her job. Sorry, too many risks going on even with sober chaperones and teachers on an out-of-town trip. I'm a little shocked that anyone would be ok with that, if it happened, though the parent they talked to for the radio piece did indeed say that she had been "punished enough" and should be back in the classroom. I don't agree.

Nochoir mom

Anonymous said...

Who takes chaperones and high schoolers to Nawlins and doesn't think that alcohol will be an issue? Get real. The whole point of party city USA is to drink early and often. Sure it can be in moderation but its going to happen the temptation is every block in the tourist areas. Every block. Underage. Overage. Middleage. Everyone is drinking. Garfield was naive at best in choosing that location in the first place considering they were on double probation this year for their lax oversight in other years. When you go looking for trouble you'll find it. Was this conversation had before signing the papers allowing the trip? Doubt it.

Duh

Anonymous said...

It sounds as though the drinking was done by adults, not students. When you agree to chaperone, you are expected to act like a responsible adult and abide by the rules. If that's too hard, you shouldn't chaperone. It's that simple.

-speechless

Anonymous said...

@singersmom,
Ms. Burton is perhaps the most caring and passionate teacher I have run across over the duration of 29 years raising three kids. She literally turns kids lives around and puts them on a positive trajectory - I say this from first hand experience as the mom of a student who is not particularly musically gifted. Burton is a truly a miracle worker.

This is all great, and I think many of us appreciate Ms. Burton's contributions over the years. As the parent of a kid who has also benefitted from her, I know I do.

Unfortunately, she screwed up. Big time. There is no getting around that, and there is no "undo button". This was not a case of chaperones sneaking around on the side doing something they shouldn't be doing, this was a case of Ms. Burton being directly involved in group behavior that puts kids' safety at risk. Regardless of what people's opinions about adult drinking on field trips is, they all signed documents stating that they would not.

I attended all the pre-travel meetings for the New Orleans trip along with another parent who actually chaperoned the trip. Students and chaperones were very clearly communicated with regarding the rules of the trip. Students were allowed to weigh in on the details of the rules. The planning was thorough. The rules were solid. Each traveler signed the very tightly written contract re behavior and obligations before traveling.

What you're saying here is that there is no possible way that anyone could have thought their behavior was acceptable, right?

Unfortunately, the word on the street (hallways) is that this has probably been going on for years, not just with choir trips, but other groups as well, and old habits are hard to break. How else could behavior like this be explained when each person has to sign a mile-high stack of papers spelling out all the expectations so clearly?!

How can adults be trusted to watch over our kids when they can't even behave responsibly themselves?

What a sad day this is. I think the days are numbered for these kinds of field trips. I suspect there are other teachers at Garfield that think they are "untouchable" as well, but if this doesn't prove that's no longer the case in 2015, I'm not sure anything will.

- fingers crossed

Anonymous said...

It ain't just Garfield folks.

parent

Anonymous said...

SPS has a deep-rooted problem holding its staff accountable, and it perpetuates these tragedies.

In the aftermath of the NatureBridge case, the district's own paid investigator found that the GHS teachers in charge of the field trip, the chaperones, and the administrators did not follow the policies and procedures in place at the time. These staff admitted that they hadn't even read the policies and procedures that were designed for the safety of the children. Were any of these staff held accountable for their noncompliance?

Fast forward two years. In the current case, the district's paid investigator found that the GHS teacher in charge of the trip and the chaperones did not follow the policies and procedures in place at the time (new policies and procedures instituted since the NatureBridge trip). These staff admitted that they did not follow the policies and procedures put in place for the safety of the children. Are these staff going to be held accountable for their noncompliance?

See the pattern? SPS can have all the policies and procedures in the world on the books, but if they're not followed, and no one is held accountable, then what's the message being given to staff (and what's the point of having the policies)? Is the message, well, we profess to "take student safety seriously" but when it comes to holding staff accountable for violating procedures designed to keep students safe, we look the other way? And what adult behavior regarding accountability is being modeled to the students?

What do we hear now that the district might actually hold staff accountable? Parent testimonials about the teacher (presumably not from the parents of the molested children)? Student concerns that the punishment doesn't fit the crime?

Parents don't send their kids on field trips to be sexually victimized. If a child is sexually assaulted (including "groping") under district supervision, then the parents have a right to know: what happened, why was this allowed to occur on an SPS field trip, what measures were in place to ensure student safety, why didn't the measures protect the student, and if these measures weren't followed, why weren't they, and who is to be held accountable?

These questions were never answered two years ago for the NatureBridge trip. Will the district step up and answer them for the current case? Or do we have to endlessly repeat these sorry stories?

Adam

Anonymous said...

The hate for teachers here is saddening. Teachers should be held accountable, but can't one be judged on the totality of their commitment and deeds vs this one isolated event? It's like blaming cops for crimes.

Can't teachers be protected from harm by aggressive and violent students without calling for their termination. It's a hard enough job without adding in the threat of physical injury.

This blog is so schizophrenic, one post commending the teachers for the walkout then BOOM off with a teachers head for a small over-site or wanting a safe classroom.

I would like to know who at the district keeps providing inside information to these bloggers and for what purpose? You might not be Eric Snowden, but your doing damage just like he did.

Poison pill

Anonymous said...

I am a HUGE supporter of teachers, but I have to agree with Fingers Crossed. She may have indeed been fantastic, and it appears that her leaving will be a huge loss, but I think the district's hands are tied here. That was one big screw up. At worst, it put students at serious risk. I can think of many serious situations that would require a sober, trained professional. At best, what did it show the students as far as the rules of the trip? No matter how carefully and slowly the rules and procedures and consequences of poor behavior were reviewed before the trip, I'm pretty sure seeing your teacher drinking alcohol pretty much says those are out the window - and much more so than even a stumbling drunk chaperone. Which agian puts students at risk. It's part of the most fundamental job description.

And what would it say if the District looks the other way and takes no action? What message is that? And even though they blew it on the Nature Bridge incident, you can't expect them to say, "Well we screwed up and didn't discipline anyone then, so we can't now." Doesn't this seem like a tiny bit of progress? I would NOT want to see her blamed for a drunk chaperone - that is not her fault. It is her actions that are at issue. As a parent, I don't want my kids "supervised" in this manner. That said, I'd be open to a suspension, like for a year? That would show the district is serious about safety and consequences, while showing some compassion for this outstanding teacher who made a spectacular screw up. Face it, she's never getting hired again as a teacher with this on her record.

And let's remember the girls here. The support of the teacher kinda minimizes their painful experience, which doesn't sit well with me. The teacher owes them an apology.

Honestly, if I was a teacher, I would NEVER agree to go on these overnight trips. But if I did, I'd understand that I was the bottom line. Unfortunate situation all around.


-Rare Commenter

Melissa Westbrook said...

It is never a "small over-site (sic)" when a child is inappropriately touched. Never. The gravity of the situation is not ours to decide. That's up to the district and the legal system (should they become involved).

No one at the district has told me a single word on this issue. No one. I knew for months this teacher was on paid administrative leave and said nothing, mostly because I had no further information even though I had asked at the district. Then, when I did get info - mostly because students and parents came forward in defense of the teacher - I printed it.

As for Eric Snowden, it rather looks like he's been vindicated somewhat. At least according to American courts.

Rare Commenter, right on point. I will have more to say when I write up the students' press conference but I am astonished at what parents have said. I understand students being young and earnest but the "oh well" attitude of some parents is astonishing.

I am left at this point to wonder if the victims would not have come forward (one commenter says it was not them but a friend worried they might have to sit next to boy who touched them inappropriately) if they knew this would happen.

What I think is that whoever told the teacher wanted to protect the girls and, possibly, get this boy kicked out of school so he could not do this again to anyone. The problem is that the students did not realize the teacher HAD to report it once it was reported to her. Plus, it was not a simple matter of expelling him. And thus this all unfolded.

Even if some think this a small blot on a teacher's record (and I heard her lawyer say that she had led 48 trips over the years and none with an issue), the problem is that the district AND this school had already been thru this before. The district redid its policies and procedures, directed principals to learn them and uphold them and, from what I heard from one parent about another Garfield trip this year, the principal read chaperones a quiet version of the riot act on chaperoning.

The issue is not one teacher. The issue is multi-layered.

Did the chaperones do their jobs as outlined to them?
Did they use their best judgment in the interest and safety of students?
Did the lead person (the choir teacher) make sure that chaperones understood all this and set an example?

If they did all these things, yes, something could have still happened. Kids are quite crafty and sometimes use some poor judgment.

But at least the district and the chaperones could look parents in the eyes and say, "We did all we could according to district policy." Legal could say to any plaintiff, "We will show that our chaperones were trained, the students knew and signed a behavior policy and the chaperones followed the policies."

I DO think the superintendent should take EVERYTHING about this teacher into account. Obviously, no one was exited over NatureBridge.

Until the teacher or her lawyer step forward and explain her thinking, we don't know. Is she being blamed for things she could not control i.e. the behavior of the other chaperones? Or did she know and do nothing? Or did she join in?

There were at least two separate incidents of inappropriate no-consent touching (this from both students and the district's press release). Did the teacher know about the first one? If so, what did she do?

Did any chaperone know and not tell her? If that happened, that's on the chaperone.

You'd have to see what she did and did not do. That's up to the investigation and the Superintendent.

Anonymous said...

There's an awful lot of linking the teacher's alleged misbehavior with the groping incident, but does any evidence exist that indicates that the teacher's conduct had any causal link whatsoever with the groper's conduct? Did not following procedures cause the incident? Many are making that logical leap, to say that, "if the teacher had followed procedures, this wouldn't have happened." Based on what we know as actual facts, how can anyone infer, deduce or say such a thing? All evidence known thus far suggests no link between the two. So for anyone to be arguing about the appropriate punishment, I think you're way ahead of yourselves. If there is a link between the teacher's alleged conduct, and the occurrence of the incident, that's a different story. Anybody have any facts on that? I've seen none to date. Holding a teacher responsible for breaking a rule is one thing. Holding a teacher responsible for negligently or recklessly causing harm to another - which seems to be the conclusion many here have already reached - is something entirely different. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Alleged groper. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

First -- I know nothing (other than what I have read here). And I am not connected to any informational line that will change that. Mindful of the comments above about jumping when I know nothing, I am not sure I should even be commenting.

That said -- the thing I find most astonishing, and disheartening -- is that this situation (where adults reportedly did not follow all of the rules applicable to chaperones) could occur at the very school where NatureBridge happened. How could these adults not have been the MOST CAREFUL chaperones in town, given what occurred such a short time ago? It seems like such a betrayal of the kids (and the school) to not have been the most vigilant, serious, on-top-of-things chaperones ever to walk the earth!

I also know next to nothing about Ms. Burton, and so have no opinions one way or another -- but if people think she is a really great, gifted teacher, I hope they can come up with something like the commenter above suggested (a year of suspension, followed by umpteen years on some sort of probation, or something) so that she can continue to teach.

And at the end of the day -- I hope all the kids are ok -- the ones who were molested, the one(s) who finally told the adults, and (assuming all these allegations are true) the one who evidently needs serious help with behavior that, if not dealt with, will cause him some serious legal and other problems in adulthood -- which is coming up real soon (and that is if it isn't causing trouble already).

Jan

Carol Simmons said...

Ms. Burton is a gifted teacher who built an outstanding program at Garfield. She is much loved by her students and parents,and highly respected in the Garfield community. I sincerely hope that she will be able to continue to teach music. She should not be terminated from her position.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Burton has been effectively issued a gag order by the district while they cherry-pick misleading information from a report that supposedly is not public. It's reprehensible.

The District failed to mention that they did not follow their own policies, procedures, and protocol by notifying the teacher and principal of a student's recent history of sexual harassment that led to expulsion from another school.

Ms. Burton reported the incident on the field trip as soon as she possibly could. That very evening, in fact. The District responded by placing her immediately on leave and treating her as a criminal, including forbidding her from attending performances of her own neice and nephew at other Seattle schools. Clearly not exactly an incentive for reporting incidences.

The District could actually take meaningful steps to reduce the risk and incidence of sexual harassment. They could provide education on consent, boundaries, and harassment. They could talk with teachers with years of experience about better policies and practices. They could ensure teachers and principals know of the background of students with a history of harassment.

Ms. Burton had one drink with chaperones in the bar during their evening meetings. No students were there. She also had less than one glass of wine with dinner, one night. It seems highly unlikely to me that these were the first chaperones to have a drink at the end of a day (without kids) and wine with dinner. The alleged sexual harassment was no more or less likely because of that.
If the District had followed their own policies, procedures, and protocol, the risk would, actually, have decreased (though, still exists, on field trips, or not.)

The strongest message the District has sent these past months seems to be "don't tell" if you are a victim or a teacher. Your program will be terribly disrupted, and your teacher will be gone. Firing Ms. Burton for this would not only be excessive punishment, it would do absolutely nothing to address the issue of sexual harassment, and likely will have a chilling effect on future reporting of incidences.

School supporter


Melissa Westbrook said...

"There's an awful lot of linking the teacher's alleged misbehavior with the groping incident,.."

Actually, there isn't. At least not in anything I've seen. But we haven't seen the investigation report. And there are two alleged incidences, not one.

"...they cherry-pick misleading information from a report that supposedly is not public.."

And you know this how? Have you seen the report?

"The District failed to mention that they did not follow their own policies, procedures, and protocol by notifying the teacher and principal of a student's recent history of sexual harassment that led to expulsion from another school."

This has yet to be proven. We'd have to see the report (which we can't). I would caution you to use the word "alleged history." But yes, if this is true, the district has yet dug itself another hole.

"Ms. Burton reported the incident on the field trip as soon as she possibly could. That very evening, in fact." Again, how do you know this for certain?

School supporter, you sure know a lot. Were you on this trip? How do you know how much she had to drink and when? Were you in her room?

In short, unless you are her, I don't see how you can truly know.

I would agree that it might be a chilling thing to exit her on this basis but I'd have to know what she did, what she knew and when she knew it. You know, like an investigation (unless you believe the investigation is tainted).

Anonymous said...

Really MW? If Burton had had one drink, but no groping happened, would people be calling for her job? If it happened while Burton was at the drugstore instead of having a drink, would the outrage be the same, or even exist? Puh-Leeeeez! WSDWG

P.S. Do we even know the time frame that each incident occurred? Does anyone care? Or think it matters? I sure do.

Amorfa said...

And here is the inherent issues with HR "Investigations":

1) The witnesses/participants in said investigation are instructed to not talk about it to anyone.

2) The District, in response to the visibility of students'/parents' press conference/protest, releases a "It's a personnel issue we can't comment.....but I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin' " press release of their own.

Those directly involved are under orders to shut up. The District HR/PR does what any organization would do - release the minimum amount of knowns plus a little extra "generic" info from which one may draw a conclusion.

Thus ensues speculation, suppositions, if/thens, and "If it was me, I'd..." comments.

It sucks all the way around.

Anonymous said...

So WSDWG, Ms. Simmons and others who support the teacher-you're really ok with your kids (and other people's kids) being overseen by teachers who have been drinking alcohol? I like a good beer or glass of wine as much as the next person, but if I am traveling and have children who are not my own along, my husband and I DO NOT DRINK because we are responsible for them and emergencies can happen. Are you also ok with the chaperones drinking? I'm really surprised that anyone seems to think that drinking, even a little, set any kind of good example or was a sensible choice and that the teacher should get a pass.

And school supporter, obviously SOME students saw the drinking and must have been uncomfortable about it because they were the ones who reported it

Really?Really?

Anonymous said...

Really, etc? Who said the students reported it and were uncomfortablet? The chaperones and Ms. Burton were all interviewed for the investigation, presumably.

School Supporter

Melissa Westbrook said...

WSDWG, I'm a little confused by your question. I think there are many questions that only the victims can answer, the chaperones (including the teacher) and the investigation.

What I would say about the District telling anyone but the teacher to stay quiet is they don't have that right. It might be in their best interests and they should ask their own lawyer but there is real right for the district to issue a gag order.

RosieReader said...

The facts are out on all fronts. However, as to the allegations regarding teacher and chaperone drinking, I don't think it's too much to ask that a high school teacher remain absolutely sober during an overnight field trip, even if it lasts an entire week. Ditto parent chaperones for high school field trips. Even in New Orleans. Even if the trip involves taking some agriculturally-minded students to Napa to study viticulture techniques.

I don't know the facts, but I would definitely expect the District to hold accountable an educator who had anything to drink herself. And unless the educator can demonstrate that chaperones drank in spite of her instructions to the contrary, I am also completely comfortable with holding an educator accountable for that as well.

We may never know the facts. And I will not rush to judgment on any front. But the "don't drink around the students" standard seems eminently reasonable to me.

Anonymous said...

School supporter, from Melissa's own report following the press conference: "students observed their teacher and chaperones drinking alcohol, a teacher and chaperones drank alcohol at night on other occasions, a chaperone was visibly incapacitated and had to be helped back to their hotel room one night, and a chaperone was alleged to have engaged in inappropriate contact with a student while under the influence of alcohol."

I am quite certain that STUDENTS reported at least some of this, thus the wording, "STUDENTS observed their teacher and chaperones drinking alcohol..." From what Melissa reported, it certainly seems some of the ADULTS misbehavior was reported to investigators by STUDENTS.

In any case, I stand by my belief that adults in charge of minors on a school trip should not be drinking, period, much less drinking to excess, as seems to have been the case with at least one person.

Really? Really?

Anonymous said...

If Burton had had one drink, but no groping happened, would people be calling for her job?

Why not? Personally, re: teacher discipline, I think it's irrelevant whether or not an incident was reported. If Teacher A drinks on the job and nobody is hurt, and Teacher B drinks but somebody IS hurt, do people really think that only Teacher B should be punished? Teacher A would deserve punishment just as much. And remember, sexual assaults often go unreported, so basing discipline on reported incidents seems a bad way to go.

From the information released thus far, it would seem she clearly knew the rules and blatantly disregarded them. This sent a message to the students that rules wouldn't be tightly enforced on the trip, which may have contributed to student misbehavior. It also sent a similar message to chaperones, which likely contributed to their lax oversight, the apparent inebriation of one chaperone and the inappropriate conduct with a student. Had the students and chaperones felt the teacher was watching closely and enforcing the rules, things may have been different. SO while the teacher's actions/inactions didn't "cause" the groping (in answer to WSWDG's earlier question), it may have been a contributing factor in that and other inappropriate behavior.

Regardless of whether or not an "incident" was reported on the trip, by choosing to ignore the field trip rules the teacher put the students, herself, the chaperones, the school and the district's pocketbook at additional risk. That was a dumb thing to do. If I were an employer, I'd have a hard time justifying the additional risk in keeping such an employee around--even if they were great at the rest of their job. I'm not saying they necessarily should fire her, but I don't think it's an unreasonable option.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

@HIMSMom: it "may have" and it "may haven't." But we are, and remain, a long, long way from having enough evidence to say. So, in the vacuum of actual evidence, we speculate. Neither fair, nor responsible. Let's get the facts. It's your right to feel that any alcohol consumption at all justifies termination, regardless of harm, and I may not disagree, depending upon the entirety of the circumstances around that incident, few of which we actually know right now.

@RR: I'm not sure you read the whole thread, but the knee-jerk, zero-sum analysis serves nobody. I.e., one can be both sympathetic and critical at the same time. Supporting a teacher doesn't mean supporting every step they take, nor is it an endorsement of alcohol on field trips. How you got that from my comment, I'm not sure, but I'm weary of such black or white, up or down, in or out, over-simplified analyses. Does it really need to be said that generally supporting someone doesn't, ipso facto, mean endorsing every single thing they do? Do I really, really have to explain that?

This is what bad policies like zero tolerance and three strikes you're out bring us, I'm afraid. "If you're not with us, you're against us." Uh, no. Not quite. Not at all, in fact. Personally, I prefer to avoid jumping into one camp or another until all the discernible facts are revealed. How my advocacy for that point has led you or others to think I endorse alcohol-fueled field trips, I don't know. But it appears some triggers flip rather easily in these matters.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

@MW: I think we're flying past each other. I aspire to get to the truth, as much as possible. That's my point and the point of my rhetorical questions. Yes, there were two separate incidents, and that was also my initial point. Is there any linkage between the two? We don't know yet, and as HIMSMom demonstrably writes, there "may" be, which underscores my point that there also "may NOT be." But despite not knowing more than basic, preliminary facts, the suggestions have already been made that without A, B may or would not have occurred. So I'm imploring folks to not go there yet, unless or until the evidence leads us there. In doing so, the only camp I'm jumping into is that of the Truth, or the closest possible thing to it, and we'll run right by it, and waste all the best lessons to be learned from it, if we load up on anecdotes and presumptions, recklessly speeding toward frontier justice, versus patiently proceeding through due process. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

There's a huge difference in "having a drink" and "being drunk". There's nothing wrong in having a drink except if the policy states employees and cleared volunteers shall not consume alcohol or use a controlled substances while chaperoning students on a field trip.

For those who have experienced a few of these trips know Valium is the way to go, just make sure you have a prescription.

Bud Light

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong in having a drink except if the policy states employees and cleared volunteers shall not consume alcohol or use a controlled substances while chaperoning students on a field trip.

True. Unfortunately, it iS against policy. Here's #2 in the guidelines, which chaperones have to sign and say they agree to comply with.

In order to comply with District policy, during District sponsored events, chaperones:
• may not use, sell, provide, possess, or be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• may not use tobacco in the presence of, or within the sight of, students
• may not possess any weapon
• may not administer any medications, prescription or nonprescription, to students

HIMSmom (who enjoys a good drink now and again--emphasis on again!--but cannot imagine doing so on a school field trip.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Look, we don't have the report but the press release is clear about what is in the report.

"So, in the vacuum of actual evidence, we speculate."

So it's not a vacuum; it's more of a withholding. You can speculate on how many drinks, when, number of nights, etc. But was there drinking on the part of some of the adults? Yes.

Bud Light, there is absolutely no reason to have a drink when you are a chaperone on a field trip with students. There's no need and if you really feel you need a drink, don't put your hand up. Because a chaperone may need good facilities and judgment in the middle of the night, need to drive to a hospital, talk to law enforcement, etc.

And, of course, it's against policy. There is no district that could afford the liability of allowing chaperones to drink. Where's your common sense?

Charlie Mas said...

I think I know what's going on here.

The District has a lot of policies and procedures. Most of them are simply ignored and everyone is cool with that. No one reports the violations and no one is held accountable for them. There are, however, a few policies and procedures that are actually enforced. Not many, but a few.

The field trip procedures and the sexual harassment/assault procedures used to be in the big group of policies and procedures that everyone could safely ignore. Look at the NatureBridge case - those people didn't even know the procedures, let alone follow them and none of them were held accountable or saw any consequences.

But, since NatureBridge, the field trip and sexual harassment/assault policies and procedures have moved onto the tiny list of policies and procedures that are actually enforced. Since this list is not official, there was no announcement of the shift. So the teachers and choir boosters at Garfield didn't know that they could no longer do all of the stuff had always done before.

It does seem a bit unfair that the District suddenly starts to enforce policies and procedures that they never enforced before. They should warn people or something before they start enforcing policies that everyone used to be able to violate with impunity.

ChoirMom said...

"Look, we don't have the report but the press release is clear about what is in the report."

What makes you say that? Have you seen the report? That's the standard for making claims about what's in the report, right?

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, yes, many policies languish unread. Salmon Bay Mom, on another thread, asks whither goes Alt Policy C54.00, which is still on the books but apparently ignored...
BUT: To say that the staff at Garfield, particularly, might have been unaware of the new paradigm seems a stretch after Naturebridge.
That said, earnest attempt by District to adhere to ALL policies would go a long way to strengthening adherence to rules generally. Though if any are to be adhered to, it's good that it's those that relate directly and immediately to student safety.

seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Surely the majority of the policies and procedures on the books are there for compliance or CYA reasons. Most of the time no one cares if they're not followed.

When there's a crisis, and the finger pointing begins, the policies suddenly assume great importance. No wonder people are confused about when the policies are going to be enforced and when it's OK to ignore them.

Adam

Anonymous said...

Adam, I can't actually imagine a teacher thinking it's ok to ignore a district policy that puts kids directly in harms way by drinking. So some say it was only one drink, or "half a glass", I'm not convinced that that's not potentially harmful.

My HS kid went on a field trip last spring where a student broke his arm doing something stupid in his dorm room (they were at the WSU campus). The teacher in charge had to drop what she was doing and take the kid to urgent care. A teacher who's been drinking, even a little, might not be at her sharpest, and THAT is why there is a no-drinking policy in place. Any teacher who ignores that puts kids in her care at risk-period. Ms. Burton might be the salt of the earth, but what if, just maybe, some of what happened in New Orleans with both students and chaperones could have been prevented if she had skipped those drinks?

Really?Really?

Anonymous said...

Objection! The question calls for speculation.

Sustained!

I rest my case. WSDWG

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, there is no need for any speculation here. The press release clearly stated that the investigation concluded that chaperones consumed alcohol in violation of the procedures and in violation of their commitment as chaperones. That's not a speculation. The press release said that the investigation concluded that there was a boy in a girls' hotel room. The press release also stated that there were three reported incidents of sexual harassment/assault.

No one seems to be subject to any consequences here except for Ms Burton, so the really important questions are these:

1) Did Ms Burton allow the boy into a girl designated hotel room?
2) Did Ms Burton fail to follow the policy and procedure upon receiving any of the three reports of sexual harassment/assault?
3) Did Ms Burton consume alcohol in violation of her chaperone commitment?
4) Did Ms Burton, as the leader on the trip, allow the consumption of alcohol by other chaperones?

And one more question: if the answers to any of these questions is "yes", then what is the prescribed consequence? I cannot imagine that any of these requires the termination of her contract. It never has before and it sets a precedent that I don't believe Dr. Nyland or the District wants to establish and follow in future.

Charlie Mas said...

Also, all of the policies and procedures should be followed all of the time. If the policy or procedure doesn't work or isn't realistic then it should be changed so that it does work and is realistic. It should not be violated with impunity.

Again, this is the flaw at the root of nearly all of the District's problems: the culture of lawlessness. Procedures, policies, state regulations, and federal laws are routinely violated, they are never enforced, and the people who violate them are never corrected or held accountable. Institutional culture flows down from the top, and the top of Seattle Public Schools is the School Board. The Board turns a blind eye to countless policy violations even though they have a duty to enforce policy. This signals a disregard for policy which is picked up by the superintendent and passed to his staff, who pass it down the chain of command to their subordinates. Likewise, if the School Board chose to enforce policy the superintendent would, in turn, enforce policy on his senior staff and compliance would be relayed down the chain of command instead.

The Board has the tools they need to enforce policy. They have the office of the internal auditor. They could use it to require compliance, but they do not. They have their own authority. They could use it to require compliance, but they do not. Any one Board member - any one of them - can insist on policy compliance at any time, but they do not. It does not require a majority vote of the Board to require policy compliance because the policies themselves are directions to the superintendent approved by majority vote of the Board. It would be an absurd state of affairs if it required a majority vote of the Board to enforce a majority vote of the Board. What if the superintendent still did not comply? Would another majority vote of the Board be required to enforce the direction to follow the policy? That would be madness. No. Any individual Board Director, acting unilaterally, has the authority to require policy compliance. So why don't they do it?

I have been told that they don't enforce policy because they don't want to anger and alienate the senior staff and lose their cooperation. I don't understand that. If the senior staff are not following policy, then the Board doesn't have their cooperation now. There's nothing to lose. Also, senior staff who routinely refuse to cooperate with the Board should be replaced. Who wants 'em?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you, Really, Really, for that perfect example of how things can easily go wrong and you need chaperones who are on point.

It's not speculation that a person who hasn't been drinking is probably better equipped to make important decisions for student safety than one who hasn't.

One thing that strikes me about this trip is that what I perceive about what is in the press release from the report is that this was not one day/night but over two days. Just like NatureBridge. We'll just have to read the report to see.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Also, at the KIRO tv report, a commenter says something happened in April at a jazz choir field trip that Hale students took and that a teacher there was also put on leave. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Has everyone read this press release from the Friends of Garfield Singers (parent organization supporting the Garfield Vocal Music Program)? It clarifies many of the details and provides some much-needed context. Please read and share!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7JWyDpBohCBYmZ3T0FDQ1hQUzZvSnA1cF8zX3M4MTFXSndN/edit

~ Former student of Carol Burton, GHS class of 2010

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting that former student. What you have posted there pretty much encapsulates everything I have heard from a friend at Garfield. I do think there should be some form of repercussion for the alcohol violation but I am wondering if the 'time served' already isn't adequate.

HP