Friday, June 12, 2015

Garfield Student Press Conference on Latest Field Trip Incident

The Garfield student protest over the possible loss of their beloved choir/musical director was held on Wednesday.  There were about 100 students, many with signs that read, "Bring Back Burton" and "Hurtin' for Burton."  Their statements are included at the end of this thread (these were supplied to me by them).  Here's their ask:

We are calling on Seattle Schools, especially Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland to take into consideration the legacy Ms. Burton has built and her day to day performance as a devoted, caring, and invaluable teacher. We encourage friends, former students, colleagues, and the public to send letters in support of Ms. Burton and her positive impact to the email: superintendent@seattleschools.org.

The students were very organized and had several speakers lined up.  Most of the speakers had been on the trip.  They also sang a song at the end that they said Ms. Burton had taught them (it sounded Hawaiian but I don't know).

The students had one spokesperson for questions and she was alternately very tough and occasionally almost overcome.  Her name was Julia Furukawa.  I do want to say that she only answered a few questions and did not always answer fully so it is difficult to discern the fullness of her answers.  She did a good job for someone so young.

What was stated by students:

- They acknowledged that there was some behavior on the part of students and chaperones that could likely be deemed inappropriate.

- They acknowledge that the touching by the male student was not consensual and not appropriate.

- They say that the male student had been exited from a private high school for similar issues but did not say how they knew this.

- They also claim the district knew of these issues with the male student and did not tell Garfield or Ms. Burton.  Again, I do not know how they know this.

- When asked if the victims had been told not to say anything in order to protect the teacher or the choir program, they said no.

- Their statement from the victims was that they want to remain anonymous and ask for Ms. Burton not to be punished.  I was unable to ask them if the victims thought anyone should be punished or if there was something that any chaperone could have done to prevent what happened.

- They believe their music education was compromised by not having Ms. Burton and say they themselves had to teach several music classes.  (I'll have to ask the district about this.)

- They believe Dr. Nyland should do what is best for the Garfield community and not worry about what the District's legal concerns are.

-I asked if the students understood the concerns of SPS parents in general and the taxpayers who expect oversight by chaperones on field trips?  This question gave them pause because I think they understood this in something of a broad way but not that the District has tremendous liability issues if they do not act based on the circumstances of this trip.

I did ask the students what was the one question they would like to ask the District but they would not answer.  

Ms. Furukawa tried to explain something about "outdated" District policies around same sex rooms. 
She looked at the crowd of reporters and said it was something we wouldn't understand.  (To be honest, I almost laughed outloud because she thought we were all old fogies. Maybe me but there were a lot of young reporters there.  Two, we didn't just all fall off the turnip truck and yes, do know a bit about life and LBGT issues.)

My take on the "outdated policies" was that it was around the rooming arrangements of putting same sex students together.  But a reader tells me I am wrong (or misunderstand) and that it is about students of different sexes in hotel rooms visiting.

Ms. Furukawa will be clarifying her statement on this issue soon but it does seem it was around rooming issues, not visiting issues.

What seems to be clear is that the male student had been assigned one room but felt - for whatever reason- uncomfortable and moved to another same sex room.  How the victims and the male student ended up visiting in one room is unclear.

I await the release of the investigation to get the fullest picture from the brief one painted by the District's press release.  I would hope the Superintendent would NOT act until the public - and the Garfield community - has the chance to read that report and fully digest it.  Because to act in lieu of the community not having a clear understanding of what happened, by whom and when, then whatever the consequence, it would feel like the Superintendent chose to act in a vacuum.   That is not fair to anyone.

To the issue of "visiting" in a hotel room, I say - firmly - no.

Students can visit with friends on a field trip:
- at the airport
- on the plane ride
- on transportation to and from the airport
- on transportation to and from performance venues
- on transportation to and from any sightseeing
- in the hotel lobby
- at breakfast, lunch and dinner

But the hotel rooms?  No. Teens just sometimes use poor judgment in behavior, particularly if you have one person egging the others on.

If you have a teacher who knows students and knows who would be good to room with someone else, you can minimize the number of incidents that might arise.

There is NO way to plan/forestall everything - you just have to follow the rules, say "no" frequently and remind students of their contract promise to be on the trip.

 (FYI, if you have a kid at home or on a field trip who asks you a question, doesn't like the answer and keeps it up, here's a tip.  I always said to my kids, "Did you ask me a question?"  "Yes."  "Did I give you an answer?"  "Yes."  "Well then, we're done.  Please don't ask again."  Never allow yourself to get into a circular argument or a "I'll just wear them down" argument with a teen. Ask a teacher; they'll tell you the same thing.

Student Statements


ASG president Maddy Kennard:


"Hi, I’m Maddy Kennard, I’m a member of Garfield’s Concert Choir and Vocal Jazz, and the Associated Student Government President. I’m here today with students from Garfield High School to address the issues surrounding the decision to terminate our teacher Ms. Carol Burton. Here to speak today are some of my fellow students who have been affected by this: Jason Beverly, Grace Corsi, Naomi Zemadim, Riley Calcagno, and Julia Furukawa.

Carol Burton, the 14 year director of the Garfield Choral Program, Music for the musical, and Piano class teacher, has built an amazing program, winning countless festivals and even singing on the stage of Carnegie Hall. She has created a tight-knit community where students receive mentorship and inspiration. Hundreds of students agree that Ms. Burton has changed their lives for the better.

Because of events on a Garfield Choir trip to New Orleans, the HR Department of the Seattle School District has recommended to Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland that Ms. Burton’s contract be terminated. Losing Ms. Burton permanently would be extremely detrimental to her students, the Garfield community and the community at large. The fallout would reach far beyond the factors of her termination.

We’re here to express our frustration with the way this situation has been handled throughout the investigative process. For the past three months, our education has been severely compromised; students have been forced to assume the responsibility of directing multiple choir classes. Our parent booster groups for choir and musical have been forced to sacrifice substantial funds to hire guest teachers to prepare for performances. We’ve witnessed students lose educational opportunities, motivation and drive without Ms. Burton in the classroom. We see no action by district leaders to amend these consequences.
We feel that the school district’s job during this time is to be a leader. Instead, they have been completely the opposite: secretive and contrarian to the overall goal of “student safety and education.” We have witnessed a failure by the District to account for what is best for Garfield, instead prioritizing what’s best for the District’s public image.
While the victims from this incident wish to remain anonymous, they have asked us to say that they do not think Ms. Burton should be punished. Is punishment the only tool that the Seattle school district has?
Instead, we call on the District to bring our community closer and learn from the experiences that try us. That is what Carol Burton would do. She is a true leader.

We know that the health, well-being and safety of students is among Ms. Burton’s top priorities. She acknowledges the complexity and sensitivity of real individuals in a way that district policy completely neglects. She is attentive to students’ lives and aware of these vulnerabilities, and prioritizes creating a safe zone for her students. We believe that it is important for the district to allow teachers to evaluate situations critically based on their knowledge of students and student behavior. 
Our friend, and fellow student expressed the following statement: “I absolutely do not blame Ms. Burton for anything that happened in New Orleans, as soon as the issue was brought to her attention she went out of her way to make sure that both of us were physically and emotionally protected. I love her and hope she comes back to Garfield.”

We as the Garfield student body cannot and will not accept the decision to fire Carol Burton. This decision will impede the musical education of hundreds of students, jeopardize the future of all choral music at Garfield, revoke the positive mentorship provided by Carol Burton, and dissemble an amazing community. We need Ms. Burton now more than ever. Her role at Garfield High School is vital and irreplaceable.

We are calling on Seattle Schools, especially Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland to take into consideration the legacy Ms. Burton has built and her day to day performance as a devoted, caring, and invaluable teacher. We encourage friends, former students, colleagues, and the public to send letters in support of Ms. Burton and her positive impact to the email: superintendent@seattleschools.org. We need to call on Superintendent Larry Nyland to reverse this injustice. Thank you for your time. I will now open up to questions."

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, I'm a substitute teacher (and a former music teacher) and my guess as to what was behind the comment about the students having to teach their own classes was that whatever sub hired for that particular day did not have the training to rehearse a choir. While the sub systems do in theory prioritize calling subs with training in the area of the position, the systems also prioritize a warm body over no one.
Sub

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ah, thanks for that info.

seattle citizen said...

So students who stepped up and taught (with a non-musical sub standing around and managing, maybe, bless them) should be rewarded by the school and/or district. Perhaps 0.25 credit in an elective created for the occasion, "Music Direction and Leadership", and also a letter for their college apps. I'm serious. Those students stepped up and ran things, it sounds like. (No disrespect to the subs, who otherwise would have had to make the students silent read or something.)

ChoirMom said...

Actually, the students have had an experienced music/choir teacher as a sub for the last nine weeks, give or take. Please don't speculate on the reasons why (no speculation will lead you to the real, complex story, but it could easily result in people jumping to unfair conclusions about the sub, the district, the Garfield administration, or the students), but yes, there were students leading/teaching regularly throughout that time. Students also helped assemble and rehearse the pit orchestra for the musical before the paid music director came on board, conducted at their concerts, and helped organize some of the few performances they were allowed to have.

As nice an idea as it is to consider rewarding the students for those efforts, there's only one reward they truly want, and that is to have their teacher back.

Charlie Mas said...

How do the students know what the Human Resources Department recommends? When was that publicly stated? With whom was that recommendation shared, and who shared it with the students?

There are a lot of people all around this story who claim to have non-public information and either reveal it or suggest it. Presuming that the information is true and correct, how did they get it and is it appropriate for them to reveal it?

The District has stated that their investigation reached four conclusions:
1) In violation of the rules, a boy was in hotel room reserved for girls.
2) The boy sexually harassed/assaulted two girls.
3) In violation of the rules, chaperones consumed alcohol.
4) A chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student.

We have not heard a definitive answer to the only really critical questions:
1) Did Ms Burton or any other adult in authority allow the boy to be the girls hotel room?
2) Did Ms Burton handle the reports of the boy's two sexual harassment/assault incidents in accordance with the sexual harassment policy and procedure?
3) Did Ms Burton allow the chaperones to consume alcohol?
4) Did Ms Burton consume alcohol?
5) Did Ms Burton handle the report of the chaperone's sexual harassment/assault incident in accordance with the sexual harassment policy and procedure?
6) What is the prescribed consequence for any of these violations?

I really, really want to know what criteria the superintendent uses when he decides when to conduct a full-blown investigation of the possible violation of policy and procedure and when he decides to completely ignore it.

Maureen said...

Does the District have a policy regarding transgender students and fieldtrip accomodations?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maureen, I'll ask on Monday. I don't know for sure.

But this is all getting very, very complicated and, like others, I think we may be seeing the end of field trips if chaperones know the rules and won't follow them and students know the rules and won't follow them.

Patrick said...

Charlie asks good questions. I understand Ms. Burton is a terrific choir teacher. By all means, complete the investigation without prejudging Ms. Burton's role.
But if the failures on the trip are things she should have known about, I have to ask if someone else should be leading the trips. Can she still be an effective choir teacher if she's unable to lead trips?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Patrick, that's a good question. I think her overall record could come into play here and maybe part of the judgment against her is that she can no longer go on overnight field trips with students.

Also, readers, this comment was at the KIRO tv story about this incident and talks about Hale:

"A similar thing also happened at Nathan Hale High School in April of this year involving their Jazz chior on a field trip. Alcohol was discovered and reported which resulted in their Chior teacher of many years being either suspended or fired. He has been gone since April. "

Anyone know anything about this?

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

Anonymous, I always am amused at people who can't read but just this once, I'll do you the favor of reprinting.

"Melissa, I'm so sorry it was hard for you when you felt targeted at the press conference by the student speaker. That must have been really tough to deal with. You truly are a trooper. After all, this is all about how comfortable you and the other reporters feel."

I didn't feel "targeted" nor was I uncomfortable. I felt both dismayed and amused that this young woman thought that none of us understood LGBT issues. It was no big deal except that the context is that she wanted use to understand why the male student might have been in the girls' room.

Next time, just yourself a name.

Anonymous said...

Which middle school pricipal on QA had beer breath when chaperoning the 8th grade dance last week?

-McClureWatcher

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
When Ms. Furukawa said that the male perpetrator was also gay, the entire news media gave a collective "hold on a minute!" including yourself. If these journalists truly were up to date on LGBTQ and sexual harassment issues, they would understand that sexual harassment is not about who one is attracted to but can be about power and being the past victim of an incident. In this moment, it was clear that the news media didn't understand sexual assault. This here is the reason why the district, instead of hiding behind their spokesperson, should take the time to address sexual assault to students and use this an opportunity to educate the next generation so these incidents happen less frequently and we can understand them better when they do.
--Observer

mirmac1 said...

Observer, don't patronize Melissa or readers. I "got it" before your student, or perhaps you were born.

It is unfortunate that, even with this recent Title IX mess at SPS - they still live in the world of he said, she said, they said, you said. They need to be taught the lesson that school district and universities no longer get to stick their heads in the sand or throw people under the bus.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Observer, I knew the male student in question was gay. I knew from at least two parents who e-mailed me. Sorry.

You seem to know a lot like that someone there was a past victim of an incident. I'm not even sure that will be in the investigation report. Hmmm.

Also, if you are there and watching me, kind of creepy.

All I know is this male student seems to have issues and no one is addressing them. That's also what is sad.

ChoirMom said...

The sheer number of erroneous conclusions in this and other posts is getting really frustrating. Everyone wants those in the know to answer questions, but many don't want to accept the answers they are given. But if knowledgable people do not try to answer questions, then rampant speculation and the repetition of false information continues.

Charlie is flat out wrong that the district has stated they reached those four conclusions. Go back and read their statement.

Melissa, you keep making statements that indicate you don't get the LGBTQ thing. If you did you would understand that saying that students should flatly not be allowed to visit with their friends in hotel rooms because that might lead to misbehavior could only lead to the logical conclusion that every student must have their own room. You can't say boys and girls can't be in each others' rooms but it's perfectly ok for boys to be in other boys' rooms or girls in other girls' rooms and think that somehow that means you've protected all students from sexual contact. That is indeed old fogey thinking. If the district can't figure out how to get ahead of the curve on this issue, it will only be a matter of time before same-sex sexual contact or assault occurs and parents say "why were these two girls or two boys allowed to be alone in a hotel room together with no supervision?"

ChoirMom said...

Oh, and the fact that students and parents know things that might also be in the report doesn't mean there's some copy of the report being passed around nor, as a district administrator implied, that Ms. Burton has had any contact with students during her leave. She has been scrupulous about that. There are lots of ways for people to know things.

ChoirMom said...

Wait, so it's creepy if someone was at a public event and noticed you and inferred something from your behavior? We'll call me creepy then, because I was there, I noticed you, and I inferred things about you. Just like you inferred that your question "gave the students pause" by observing their reaction to it. How creepy of you!

Melissa Westbrook said...


Melissa, you keep making statements that indicate you don't get the LGBTQ thing.

No, I don't.

First, there was a question if Julia F. meant "outdated" policies referring to visiting other classmates' rooms or the actual roommates. She has been gracious enough to let me know she meant assignments. That was what I didn't understand.

I already said - once in an earlier thread - that I don't agree with kids visiting each other their rooms.

It will be quite the task for any district to figure this out and guess what? I asked Julia for their thoughts.

Well considering the students were in front of me so I could gauge their reactions (which I would suppose was one of the reasons for the press conference so the public could see their sincerity in the matter), that makes sense. People standing to the side of me watching me and not them? Creepy.

But see you hide behind your "ChoirMom" name. If you really think you know all the details, do tell us who you are and why you know them. Because really your moniker right now means nothing.

Anonymous said...

Choir Mom,
I am very glad that the district was able to find a qualified sub who was able to take over-not an easy thing at this time of year! However, it would not be unreasonable to assume that in took the district at least some period of time before they were able to get that sub in place (or that the sub had other commitments scheduled during those 9 weeks that could not be rescheduled). Those are both situations that may have resulted in a non-music sub and with students leading classes. I will also add that it's difficult to fine-tune pieces performed by an advanced group until one has had the opportunity to become familiar with the pieces. So again, a situation in which it is beneficial to have a student lead.

I was certainly not intending to cast any aspersions on the sub! In fact, a smart sub would ask a student to lead rather than risk "messing up" the ensemble. And really, given what one reads on this blog, is it unreasonable to doubt that the district would do the work required to find a qualified sub?

Sub

Charlie Mas said...

Help me out here, ChoirMom.

Here's the report in the Seattle Times:
"Choir members aren’t disputing what the district says happened on the group’s trip to New Orleans in March: The teacher and other adult chaperones allegedly drank alcohol, which is against district policy. They also don’t dispute allegations that a male student groped two female students on a bus and in a hotel room at night.

According to district officials, one chaperone became so intoxicated one night that he or she had to be helped back to the group’s hotel. They also said one chaperone allegedly engaged in some inappropriate contact with a student.
"

Here is how I distilled it:
"The District has stated that their investigation reached four conclusions:
1) In violation of the rules, a boy was in hotel room reserved for girls.
2) The boy sexually harassed/assaulted two girls.
3) In violation of the rules, chaperones consumed alcohol.
4) A chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student.
"

Here is your claim"Charlie is flat out wrong that the district has stated they reached those four conclusions. Go back and read their statement."

Where is their statement? The District web site is so messed up right now that I can't find their statement. Could you please provide a link to it so we can see what the District actually said and see how I was flat out wrong.

I'm curious. Which of my facts was wrong? Or was it all of them?
Are you saying that a boy was not in a girls hotel room? Is that what you are saying?
Are you saying that the boy did not sexually harass/assault two girls? Is that what you are saying?
Are you saying that none of the chaperones consumed alcohol? Is that what you are saying?
Are you saying that no chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student? Is that what you are saying?

What, exactly, are you saying, ChoirMom? Which fact or facts did I get wrong, and how did I get it wrong?

Charlie Mas said...

Oh, and what are the many ways that people can know what the investigator recommended and what is in the investigator's report. I'd like to hear that as well.

Charlie Mas said...

From the KIRO story:
"'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,' according to a district statement.
“The superintendent is considering the appropriate corrective action to take against the teacher, which may include the termination of her teaching contract.”
The district also said two female students reported being groped by a male student. Students said this happened as a result of the male student being in the girls’ room, which is against policy that states boys and girls should be in separate sleeping quarters.
"

I'm feeling pretty secure in my four statements of fact, but I'm waiting to hear from ChoirMom how I got them wrong.

Maighread said...

I think that it is very clear that rooming assignments and rules are not only outdated, but skewed to only accommodate cisgender and heterosexual students. No matter what sort of knowledge you think you have about LGBTQ issues or ability to be empathetic towards such issues you will NEVER fully understand the struggles faced by that community because you simply are not a part of it. Room assignments as district mandates is by gender. This is woefully heteronormative and fails to recognize the diversity of sexualities that students identify with. Especially with groups of students who are extremely diverse in respect to sexuality. Rooming requirements just be altered to accommodate for minority sexualities and students should in fact be allowed to visit with one another. This event occurred WHILE he was in the room, not BECAUSE he was in the room. The tragedy that happened was not of any fault of Ms. Burton but because a student was sick in the head, and had the district done their job and checked in on the background of the student the incident may have never occurred.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Maighread, first, tell us what the district can do (taking into account other parents' sensibilities and costs).

"No matter what sort of knowledge you think you have about LGBTQ issues or ability to be empathetic towards such issues you will NEVER fully understand the struggles faced by that community because you simply are not a part of it."

You know this how about me or any other reader? I don't even have to ask because no, you do not know me. Just the most dumb statement because you make assumptions you are in no way qualified to make. I'm going to assume you are young because no adult would likely make that mistake.

"This event occurred WHILE he was in the room, not BECAUSE he was in the room."

You know this how?

had the district done their job and checked in on the background of the student the incident may have never occurred.

You know this how? You know the district didn't check? I'll check but I'm not sure that a private school can pass onto a public school anything specific on a student. If police were not involved, the district likely had no way of knowing.

Now IF they did and didn't tell the school and the principal didn't tell Ms. Burton, then there's a real issue.

But we don't know.

But clearly, there are those who are out there and believe they do.

I'll wait for the investigation.

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

At this point, I am most concerned with the drinking by chaperones and Ms. Burton which shows poor judgment and disregard for district policies. It is hard to control the behavior of teenagers and to always protect them from harm, but adults should be able to follow the rules, exhibit common sense, and serve as role models. -NP

ChoirMom said...

Sub --

No, I didn't mean to imply that you personally had or would cast aspersions on the sub or anyone else, not at all. But there are frequent posters in this thread and the other posts on this subject who have no problem jumping to conclusions and speculating wildly (and sometimes irresponsibly) when given just the tiniest opportunity.

Melissa seemed to imply the students' statement of having had to teach their own classes (and who would know better than those in the classroom every single day?) was something she felt she needed to verify with the district. You clearly were offering in good faith an informed insight into a possible explanation. It's just that your answer, while an entirely plausible explanation, isn't what happened. I wanted to clarify because Melissa seemed inclined to accept your answer as the likely explanation without questioning whether it was actually what happened.

While it's not unreasonable to assume that students primarily led classes in the time before the long-term sub was assigned, or on days when the sub wasn't available, those assumptions are wrong. There was a period of around a week+ without a music sub until the long-term sub came in and as far as I know the sub missed no days, so students have had about nine solid weeks with the same fully-qualified (post-grad degree in music ed) sub. During those nine weeks, students continued to regularly (as in on an almost daily basis for some classes) take the lead in teaching their peers. People are free to wonder why, but it's clear that trying to give any sort of explanation will just fuel wild speculation. All anyone not directly involved needs to know at this point is that the students were speaking the truth, without exaggeration.

ChoirMom said...

Melissa
Well considering the students were in front of me so I could gauge their reactions (which I would suppose was one of the reasons for the press conference so the public could see their sincerity in the matter), that makes sense. People standing to the side of me watching me and not them? Creepy.

Really? I must have missed when anyone here stated that they stood to the side of you and watched you instead of the students. Oh, right, no one said that. That only happened inside your mind.

PSA: when at a press conference at which Melissa is also present, do not look at her before, during, or after speakers make their statements. You are required to only look directly at those who called the press conference. If you so much as notice she is there, or realize that she has asked a question, or observe -- even for a nanosecond, even with your peripheral vision -- any reaction she has to the speakers, whether it is a facial expression, body language, verbal statement, eye rolling, sharp intake of breath, or any other action emanating from her person, you are being a creep.

But see you hide behind your "ChoirMom" name. If you really think you know all the details, do tell us who you are and why you know them. Because really your moniker right now means nothing.

I thought you believed in the importance of anonymity on this blog. In fact, here's something you wrote previously:

I have heard, more than a couple times now, of some dissatisfaction with the building leadership at Whittier.

Would anyone with first-hand knowledge care to share what this is all about?

Those who want anonymity can either use an invented alias as their user name or send me an email and I will re-post it.

I just want to know what the deal is.
http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2009/04/whats-going-on-at-whittier.html

So in that instance you invited people with first-hand knowledge to share, and encouraged them to do so using an invented alias as their user name. And yet here I am, trying to give you first hand knowledge about this issue, and using an alias for reasons I owe you no explanation for, and you are accusing me of hiding behind my moniker, goading me to reveal myself to you, and implying that I may not be who I am representing myself to be: a parent of a student in the choir. Interesting.

Had you stuck around for any length of time after the press conference, I'd have introduced myself to you.

ChoirMom said...

Charlie,
Help me out here, ChoirMom.

OK

Where is their statement? The District web site is so messed up right now that I can't find their statement. Could you please provide a link to it so we can see what the District actually said and see how I was flat out wrong.

Sure, here is the link -- just scroll about 1/3 of the way down through Melissa's previous post on this subject, to the line which begins "SPS Communications" and then read what appears to be a direct copy-and-paste by Melissa of the district's press release. http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2015/06/garfield-new-orleans-field-trip-issue.html

Now, I note that I should not have to actually do the work of comparing what you stated as fact and what the district actually said. But I'll go ahead and spoon feed you just this once.

You said:
The District has stated that their investigation reached four conclusions:
1) In violation of the rules, a boy was in hotel room reserved for girls.
2) The boy sexually harassed/assaulted two girls.
3) In violation of the rules, chaperones consumed alcohol.
4) A chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student.


The district said:
The investigation found that policies, procedures, and protocols were violated by staff and chaperones. That is the only sentence in their press release that describes an actual conclusion reached by the investigator. That's important, keep it in mind.

The next part says:
During this field trip a male student is alleged to have groped two female students at night in a New Orleans hotel room and on a bus, 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.

Did the district state "the investigation found that a male student groped two female students?" No, they stated that a male student was alleged to have groped two female students. You claim that the district stated that the boy DID grope the girls.
To answer your question:
Which of my facts (sic) was wrong?
Are you saying that the boy did not sexually harass/assault two girls? Is that what you are saying?


I'm saying the district said no such thing, and I am saying no such thing. The district and I are both saying that the boy allegedly sexually harassed/assaulted two girls. I'm surprised that someone as thorough as you present yourself to be would leave out the very important word "alleged." I'm also surprised that you think it's the district's role to investigate the crime of sexual harassment/assault. Haven't you harped on this in the past?

(cont'd)

ChoirMom said...

(Continued from previous)

Did the district state "the investigation found that a chaperone engaged in inappropriate contact with a student?" No, they stated that a chaperone was alleged to have engaged in inappropriate contact with a student. You claim as fact that the district stated their investigation reached the conclusion that "A chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student." (I note also that the district never used the words "sexually harassed/assaulted" -- those were your words that you put in the district's mouth.) Yet again, the absence of that critical word, "alleged."

To answer to your question, "Are you saying that no chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student? Is that what you are saying?" Yes, Charlie, that is what I am saying. And no, I'm not giving you any further information about how I know that. You will just have to wait, along with your intrepid blog partner.

Also, Charlie,
Oh, and what are the many ways that people can know what the investigator recommended and what is in the investigator's report. I'd like to hear that as well.

I'm sure you would. Since that is not what I said, there's no reason for me to answer your question. And I'm not doing the work for you this time, other than to point you in the same direction as before: read what was written.

I'm feeling pretty secure in my four statements of fact, but I'm waiting to hear from ChoirMom how I got them wrong.

And now you have. And I'm officially tired of responding to sea-lioning behavior.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, I'll just note a couple of things.

1) you forgot to use "alleged" and you should have but it doesn't truly negate your statements
2) apparently not all your statements were incorrect because they weren't all refuted so good on you
3) sea-lioning - didn't know that one so I guessed we learned something today (except I don't think it applies in this case because we are actually discussing...a case)

Lastly, interesting how people seem to make an issue personal. Almost like trying to divert from the real issues.

Moving on.

Josh Hayes said...

Wow. I am never, EVER taking students on an overnight field trip. Sorry, kids.

(And this is astonishing, but the captcha for me was "5150".)

Eric B said...

One thing that occurred to me over the weekend--what exactly is a teacher supposed to do if a chaperone misbehaves? We keep telling our kids that we can only control what we do, and not what others do. Let's go hypothetical and say that a chaperone gets drunk on the first night of a field trip. The teacher sees this and tells them that they have to stop, and not to have contact with the kids until they are sober. What should the teacher do if the chaperone doesn't follow the rules the next night? What if the chaperone says that of course it's OK for students to be in the opposite gender's hotel room as long as it's during the day? Kids can get sent home, but if there are a minimum number of chaperones, you can't send them home early.

This puts teachers in a rather awful bind, especially if they are going on a trip with chaperones they don't know and trust.

I'm not speculating about what happened here, just asking about the right thing to do.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eric, I think that's probably somewhere in the district policies for lead teachers. It may be something that we as parent chaperones don't see. I can ask.

But yes, you can only say, "That's against the policies" but you can't send them home. (Maybe you notify the principal/Ex Dir.)

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you, ChoirMom for the corrections. I will re-state my four facts:

The District has stated that their investigation reached four conclusions:
1) In violation of the rules, a boy was in hotel room reserved for girls.
2) There were reports that the boy sexually harassed/assaulted two girls.
3) In violation of the rules, chaperones consumed alcohol.
4) There was a report that a chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student.

It does not change the list of the only really critical questions:
1) Did Ms Burton or any other adult in authority allow the boy to be the girls hotel room?
2) Did Ms Burton handle the reports of the boy's two sexual harassment/assault incidents in accordance with the sexual harassment policy and procedure?
3) Did Ms Burton allow the chaperones to consume alcohol?
4) Did Ms Burton consume alcohol?
5) Did Ms Burton handle the report of the chaperone's sexual harassment/assault incident in accordance with the sexual harassment policy and procedure?
6) What is the prescribed consequence for any of these violations?

Again, thank you for the corrections. I believe that I am now flat out right.

So, ChoirMom. You have a lot of information. Can you answer any of the critical questions?

Charlie Mas said...

Also, let's review the whole what I wrote, what ChoirMom wrote about what I wrote, and what I wrote about what ChoirMom wrote confusion.

I read this statement from the students at the press conference:
"Because of events on a Garfield Choir trip to New Orleans, the HR Department of the Seattle School District has recommended to Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland that Ms. Burton’s contract be terminated."

I thought that odd. I thought it was odd that the students should know the recommendation since it had not been made public. It hasn't, has it?


So I wrote:
"How do the students know what the Human Resources Department recommends? When was that publicly stated? With whom was that recommendation shared, and who shared it with the students?"


Note that the only element of the report that I asked about was the recommendation, which was known to the students.

ChoirMom responded:
"Oh, and the fact that students and parents know things that might also be in the report doesn't mean there's some copy of the report being passed around nor, as a district administrator implied, that Ms. Burton has had any contact with students during her leave. She has been scrupulous about that. There are lots of ways for people to know things."

I found this a curious statement. Of course I never suggested that a copy of the report is being passed around - that was not my invention - nor did I suggest that Ms Burton has spoken with the students - that was not my invention either.

Curious about the claim that "There are lots of ways for people to know" what's in the report, I asked about those ways:

"Oh, and what are the many ways that people can know what the investigator recommended and what is in the investigator's report."

Again, note that the only element of the report that I referenced was the recommendation.


To which ChoirMom offered only this cryptic reply:
"I'm sure you would. Since that is not what I said, there's no reason for me to answer your question. And I'm not doing the work for you this time, other than to point you in the same direction as before: read what was written."


I did read what was written. I read that the students claimed to know the recommendation to Dr. Nyland which, so far as I can tell, was never made public. It is not part of the written record. It is not in the press release. It is not in any of the media reports. What should I read, ChoirMom, that will tell me what the investigator recommended? What are the many ways that people can know about the recommendation in the investigator's report? I remain ignorant of them. You clearly know them. Please share your information.

There are, of course, any number of other elements of the report that would be known to the students. They would know, of course, about their own interviews. Those elements of the report were never a part of the discussion. The only element of the report that I'm curious about is how the recommendation became public.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm sorry if you regard my questions as "sealioning". I certainly didn't see them that way. I did not imagine that asking how people knew the contents of a confidential report constituted online harassment of a social justice warrior.

Moreover, I'm sorry if you think that you and I are engaged in some sort of adversarial argument here. We're not. Please review what I have written. I have limited my discussion to the critical elements of the situation. When you told me that I had my facts wrong I reviewed my sources and asked you for correction. When you corrected me - by pointing out that I should have focused on the reports of the alleged incidents rather than the alleged incidents - I acknowledged that I was in error and corrected my statements. You seem to be trying to pick a fight with me, but I'm not fighting with you. I don't know what tone you assign to me use when reading my words, but please try to read them with a lot less emotion. I have not been discourteous or disrespectful to you at all. On the contrary, when you wrote that I was "flat out wrong", I actively sought correction from you.

I continue to be interested only in the critical questions I listed and the additional question of how the recommendation to Dr. Nyland became public knowledge. I would be grateful for some real help along those lines. Please don't doubt my sincerity; I'm trying not to doubt yours.

Anonymous said...

Choir Mom certainly seems to "know" a lot of things.

"To answer to your question, "Are you saying that no chaperone sexually harassed/assaulted a student? Is that what you are saying?" Yes, Charlie, that is what I am saying. And no, I'm not giving you any further information about how I know that. You will just have to wait, along with your intrepid blog partner."

This is completely false. I can say with absolutely certainty that inappropriate sexual contact did indeed occur between an intoxicated chaperone and an underaged student. Choir mom was likely not even on the trip and obviously did not have a child who was in the same room when the incident occurred, or else she wouldn't make such a bold, untruthful statement.

As for the "outdated" rooming assignment, I do agree that pairing same sex student in the same hotel room is a bit laughable if the goal is to keep them from having inappropriate contact. In terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, Garfield is incredibly diverse. There were SEVERAL openly LGBTQ+ students on that trip (including one of the victims and the perpetrator) and anyone one of them could have had sexual contact with their roommates had they chosen to. However, rules are rules at the end of the day and teachers cannot just choose to only enforce the one's that they believe in. Burton had months to read over the guidelines and cancel the trip is she didn't want/believe she could follow them. She did no such thing. She took dozens of children out of the state and assumed responsibility for their safety.

CHOIR MEMBER

Anonymous said...

Maureen,

I don't know about "official" policy, but I'm almost certain that transgender students are allowed to room with people of their identified gender. There was a transgender student on the trip, and nobody had any issues with him rooming with other boys.

Choir Member

ChoirMom said...

These are the two sentences that prompted my reply, Charlie, although notice I did not actually address my reply to you. Many have been asking how people know the things they know.

There are a lot of people all around this story who claim to have non-public information and either reveal it or suggest it. Presuming that the information is true and correct, how did they get it and is it appropriate for them to reveal it?

I read no emotion in your previous posts. I suggest you not try to read emotion into my words, either. I am not interested in addressing any more of your questions. You will have the report soon enough.

CHOIR MEMBER
I stand by my statements. If you truly believe this happened, I hope you are helping ensure that the allegations are being properly investigated by the police and assisting the alleged student victim in pursuing a case against the supposed perpetrator by providing your own sworn statements or other evidence you believe supports your assertion to authorities. But again, I stand by my statements.

Anonymous said...

Choir Member,
There's nothing I can do to "assist" the victim in pressing charges. It's a very personal decision for a victim of sexual assault to decide whether or not they want to step forward and pursue a case, especially when the victim is a high school student. But yes, the police are aware of what has taken place and there is an investigation taking place by the authorities.

You can stand by your statements, but there were several witnesses that saw it occur and have admitted so in interviews. As I said before, you were likely not even on the trip, and your child was clearly not in the room when it happened so I wouldn't make such confident statements if I were you.

Choir Member

Anonymous said...

*Choir Mom*

I didn't address you properly

Choir Member

ChoirMom said...

Choir Member,

Whatever happened, I sincerely hope he is getting help.

Anonymous said...

Well hell this story might actually top this

Sex Scandal in PA.. well their University has a lot of experience with this too!

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/probe-of-pa-high-school-sex-scandal-shrouded-in-secrecy/ar-BBl6ztv

- Get the brooms witches

For the record I think the preciousness of children includes lying...lets remember the satanic cults of the 80s.. the McMartin trials and the couple in Texas recently released due to the "stories" of the children and the lack of actual evidence.. but hey children are just lovely and utterly honest... (Choir Mom I believe the rest of you notsomuch)

Anonymous said...

...and what would be the purpose of multiple choir students reporting a sexual assault that will likely cause their beloved choir teacher to be fired and will risk the ability to go on future trips in the future. Also, the students basically already confirmed that some type of assault took place on the trip so unless ALL of them are lying then your insinuation is obsurd. Something happened on the trip. The details and specifics aren't clear, but I think anyone who says that this trip went 100% smoothly is either kidding themselves or suffering from a lack of common sense.

Also, the whole "the victims are liars" reasoning is very gross and boarders on victim blaming to be honest. You know nothing about the investigation yet are insinuating that the girls MUST be lying. Right, because teenage boys NEVER misbehave and always keep their hands to themselves, right? *rolls eyes* Because teenagers would NEVER take advantage of multiple days away from their parents and do things they no they shouldn't, right?

It's one thing to say "innocent until proven guilty", but to totally dismiss the claims of two children who have said to be sexually abused is quite concerning.

-Vitim Blaming

Melissa Westbrook said...

Here's the thing - CLEARLY Choir Mom knows a lot.

But yes, the police are aware of what has taken place and there is an investigation taking place by the authorities.

What police? SPD or NOPD? And "authorities?" Police or the district?

And if you know this much, I really hope that, asked or not, you went to the "authorities" and told them what you know. It serves everyone if the investigation has the fullest picture.

Victim Blaming, there is some compelling evidence - probably to come out in the investigative report - that this student had a record of inappropriate behavior at another school. It is unlikely that was made up as well.

Anonymous said...

Not "victim blaming" or shaming just pointing out the idea of a single incident that is now a massive incident that includes a 14 year Veteran to suddenly be culpable, an adult chaperone drunk and abusive and on and on.

Children don't like. Ask the Friedmans... again really who is "investigating" this... exactly? Columbo?

And let's recall that when "investigations" are fully released and all testimony taken even stories that seem "real" are not. Ask Michael Brown

Get out the broom...

Anonymous said...

Multiple students who were witnesses, including myself, have been interviewed by the administration, a district hired attorney, and NOPD. Since the incident occurred in New Orleans, it's technically their case and they have been handling it for the most part. I'm not saying that Choir Mom doesn't know a lot, because she does, however she wasn't a witness to any of the assaults that took place or the drinking so I think she's getting ahead of herself by making claims such as, "It didn't happen."

Because unless I'm blind and the several other people in the room/trip were blind, it did happen.

Burton is a teacher with a lot of seniority, so I think people should realize that they wouldn't be so quick to suggest firing her unless they were certain that these things happened.

Choir Member

Melissa Westbrook said...

To add to Choir Member,unless the District has the proof that ALL the blame is with Burton (and, to a lesser extent, the chaperones), the DISTRICT has a real problem.

My sources tell me that someone in the district DID know the male student came to the district because of an issue of inappropriate touching of another student at a previous school (and the student was exited from that private school).

If the investigation shows that, then the District could have legal liability if they did not tell Garfield's principal.

I think we will end this discussion now until further news comes forward.