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.