Wednesday, June 03, 2015

High School Teachers on Administrative Leave

One teacher at Garfield was put on administrative leave after a school choir trip to New Orleans earlier this year.

Two teachers at Ballard are on administrative leave.

I normally might not put this up with so few details but there are a couple of concerns.

One, Garfield has had several issues around teacher supervision and school trips.  The last one created upheaval around Title IX issues. And now there's another one.  Hearing from a couple of parents, there is concern this teacher might not come back and apparently, is well-liked.

For Ballard, it seems odd that two teachers would be put on administrative leave at just about the same time. 

But the district will say nothing as "it's a personnel" matter.  Again, I get that but it does create confusion for students when teachers suddenly disappear. 

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Nathan Hale choir teacher is also on administrative leave due to alleged student behavior on a overnight field trip and alleged lack of supervision.

Raider

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Raider, that is strange. Was this to New Orleans as well?

mirmac1 said...

A recent high school field trip ran into trouble for typical HS behavior. A prudish member of the public complained. Are we to expect a missing teacher now?

Eric M said...

Yes.

seattle citizen said...

Yes. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Yes. If teachers are unwilling to act professionally on school field trips and take responsibility for student behavior, they should not be teachers.

Seattle Teacher & Parent

Anonymous said...

Or they should not be responsible for over night field trips. If they know they might get fired for lax supervision, then they should organize the trip accordingly. Room checks with room lists. Light sleeping chaperones in every hall.Prepare as if you know they will try to sneak out and party.

And IF they do, send them home on the parents' dime. My dad let me know if any such thing were to happen on trips such as these, he wouldn't pay or come get me. I would have to sit in jail or hitch hike if I didn't have the money to get my own butt home. I knew better than to screw up.

Take the job seriously or don't do it.

-rodeovet

seattle citizen said...

Not to quibble, rodeovet, but you contradict yourself: You say the teacher should send the kid home on the parent's dime, but then say your parent wouldn't pay to bring you home. A teacher couldn't just say, "get out of here, kid, you messed up! Hitch home!" A kid who messes up on a field trip can cause all sorts of logistical problems, even if the parents agree to foot the bill home.
And while of course teachers should be hyper-vigilant, students can mess up. Fire the teacher, then? Sue them? There are degrees of culpability, and in some situations a teacher can't provide 100% oversight - they aren't gods.

Anonymous said...

But teachers are ultimately responsible and if they don't take action to try to stop or correct the behavior, or worse, participate, then they should be held responsible.

Another voice

seattle citizen said...

Yes. IF the behavior was reasonably preventable. Hall monitors are possible. Keeping every student in sight at every moment isn't. If a determination is made that it was an easily preventable....outbreak of teen behavior, the question then becomes, what should their punishment be? (And how much responsibility should be placed on the students who break the rule? Should a teacher be fired for a student's failure to act responsibly?)
It's all very complex, and I have no easy answers. I'd only suggest that it's not cut and dried; teachers are humans with limited ability to control everything and everyone. I suppose that if problems occur, they should be adjudicated according to the complex situation each presents.

Anonymous said...

The parental threat to leave me there was to scare me into being good- You bet it ran counter to the "send them home" practice and I knew it. So, to avoid the embarrassment of the moment, I was an ANGEL, always. My parents encouraged/enforced good behave with threats like "won't bail you out, you will suffer you consequence on your own" all the time. It worked with me. What was funny was when he made the threat about not bailing us out (I have siblings) in front of his mother who then said, "Why not? We bailed you out."

Look, this system obviously lacks consequences that are either real or matter to anyone enough to do due diligence. The lack of teacher/admin oversight and ineffective chaperoning will most certainly make me, as a parent of a daughter, less than willing to let her participate in overnight learning or performance trips. I have chaperoned plenty of trips (hence the name rodeo vet-) and know there is no sleep to be had sometimes with the right mix of kids. I also know that preparation in anticipation of potential tomfoolery is worth it. Everyone should know the consequences up front. Choices, make good ones and its a great trip. Make bad ones and there is no more trip for you.

Despite the tragic cases of sexual assault and the other teenage "reindeer games" which have been day-lighted over the last year or so, nothing seems to have really changed. Not even with the new field trip rules and procedures.

How should this problem be solved? I want my child to be safe.

-rodeovet

Anonymous said...

forgive typos
-rv

Anonymous said...

I suspect overnight field trips now will largely be going away over the next few years. Having been on a few overnight trips (not as the lead teacher/supervisor) I thought we had pretty good supervision, but admittedly not perfect/dictatorial supervision. I for one am planning on never going on another overnight fieldtrip again - just not worth the career risk.

JR

seattle citizen said...

Here's something to think about: teachers are in loco parents - in the place of the parents. Parents have the responsibility to take care of their kids, try to keep them from doing stupid things. But do parents sometimes trust their children to be responsible? Yes. Do children sometimes blow that trust? Yes.
If teachers are in loco parentis, should they also, then, sometimes trust the student to be responsible? Or should they assume the student will NOT be responsible and in no way or fashion trust the student: monitor, leash, control at all times?

If a parent's kid, while out of sight, finds a beer and chugs it should we then fire the parent? Call CPS? Put the parent on probation? The parent obviously erred in trusting the child....

Perhaps all parties (parent, child, cop or teacher...) could sit down with the kid and hold the kid responsible for their actions?

Questions said...

One teacher cannot physically have their eyes on 50 or 100 or 200 students 24/7 on a large field trip. So much of the chaperone duties fall to volunteers, right?

Who is ultimately responsible when one or more volunteers are not actively or adequately chaperoning their kids? What determines whether the volunteers themselves are behaving inappropriately? Are there gray areas? For example, what about alcohol? Clearly chaperones can't bring alcohol into the kids' rooms, but what about a glass of wine with dinner? Regardless of the rules, talking with parent volunteers, there are very different opinions of what is and is not okay on field trips.

Even more fundamentally, what exactly constitutes chaperoning? Being in the same room? Within eyesight? Earshot? Being in the same building? How about being in the same city, but reachable by phone or text?

There are high school field trips where the latter is happening. Is that okay?

Is it okay if a group of kids hikes around on their own on a trail in a local forest? What about wandering around the downtown core of another city? Are these situations different, and are they explicitly allowed or forbidden by district policy, or are there gray areas? Does it matter if the kids are 18 year old seniors vs. 14 year old freshmen?

The rules for elementary and middle school students is usually fairly strict, but supervision for high school field trips is highly varied, and in some cases fairly lax, and it appears that teachers are starting to pay the price.

seattle citizen said...

We cross-posted, rodeovet, missed your comment. I believe that many in the district ARE aware of new, more intense oversight and procedure. Not saying everybody follows it, and I make no excuses for those who ignore new awareness at their peril. Yes, there have been some serious problems. I certainly don't intend to diminish those, either. But as JR points out, there comes a time when it's no longer worth it for teachers to attempt field trips, especially over-nighrs. Even with all the oversight and control, something could go wrong and what then?
I suggest that there be a more collaborative approach, where parents recognize that kids might do something stupid even if there WAS a hall monitor, and work WITH teachers to hold the KID responsible, if the teacher exercised due diligence (without duct-taping the kids to their beds...seriously: if TWO students are together in a room, it doesn't matter if there is a hall monitor or not....)
I'm suggesting that there be more sympathy for those teachers who, without extra pay and out of the goodness of their hearts, take on the sometimes massive planning and execution and management (of 25 or more squirming teens) in order to bring these experiences to kids. Those teachers don't have eyes in the back of their heads, they're not perfect, they're human. Work WITH them to hold students accountable; don't be too quick to assign blame to the teacher.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Questions, you ask a lot of good ones but ones I would think the district and/or lead teacher should be able to answer.

"How about being in the same city, but reachable by phone or text? There are high school field trips where the latter is happening. Is that okay?" E-mail me about these; I'd like to hear more. sss.westbrook@gmail.com.

Again, all I ask is that teachers/volunteer chaperones are trained, given adequate understanding of the trip at hand and follow that training. You cannot ask for more and there are always kids who don't listen and make bad choices.

Anonymous said...

I think seattle citizen is absolutely right here. Teachers and chaperones stand in "loco parentis" -- they are not absolute guarantors that nothing could go wrong, and that no student will misbehave. Just as parents cannot guarantee that at home.

Adults can create an environment where kids are reasonably safe -- by creating and enforcing rules that drastically minimize the risks that put kids in harm's way. But just as parents cannot ensure the total safety of their kids -- neither can adults, either teachers or volunteers. These same kids will go off to colleges in one to three years -- totally unsupervised and unchaperoned. What do we think happens then? Yes, the "risk takers" will be one to three years older and wiser -- but any parent of a 19 year old can tell you that they will not have undergone total personality changes.

Kids need to be told they will be sent home for breaking rules on trips (mine were told that). Parents need to be told that X number of teachers and chaperones will go on the trip, that they have Y rules for behavior (and that the kids know and have signed statements that they will abide by those rules), but that no one can guarantee that one or more students (theirs or someone else's) will not break those rules. And if that isn't good enough, they should keep their kids home.

Melissa -- with the right group of kids (say, the A jazz band or the Garfield orchestra kids), in the right city, I would have NO problem letting my 17 or 18 year old child go off with friends to sight see, with phone/text access to chaperones.

But that is just me, maybe.

Jan


mirmac1 said...

When I say typical HS behavior I mean swearing in public....

Eric M said...

Great questions, parents.
Here's my teacher response:

I've put in 30 years of taking students to Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, France, Ecuador, Montana, San Francisco, Texas, Florida, and all over the place, successfully, with nary an incident.

(it's an amazing list of trips, day, overnight, out-of-state-out of country, and I'm really proud of it, but it's reeeeeally long)

This is the first year in my career, since 1985, that I haven't done a single field trip. And I won't be doing any more, at least while working for SPS. I am frankly heartbroken about it. But, in this atmosphere, I will not risk my livelihood on the off-chance that teenagers will always make good choices.

As a parent myself, I don't hold other adults responsible for the behavior of my children. And I support field trips as a crucial part of learning adult responsibilities.

Another brick in the wall.

seattle citizen said...

Eric, thank you SO much for all that you do for your students. I'm so sorry the wall has grown so tall of late; the hod carriers have been busy. This year's and future students will be missing out.

Anonymous said...


My kids have been on trips with 2 different sps high schools where they had free time in a city & were allowed to sight see/eat out/ shop/use transit or cabs with a buddy & a cellphone. The destination cities included NY, DC, San Francisco, & Vancouver. They were for music or club or sports competitions. They also went on sps class trips to foreign countries that included home stays where they were in the home without a chaperone, though those trips were during the summer. These trips are continuing. I know that one year kids were sent home from Japan. I understood & accepted the risks of these trips.

I stopped chaperoning when chaperones had to pay their own way in high school trips. In middle school we did bed checks at lights out & 7 am. Plus patrols during the night.

-fieldtrip Parent

Anonymous said...

So much common sense on the blog (by seattle citizen, fieldtrip Parent, Melissa, and some others). And so little in the District downtown.

Jan

Anonymous said...

It's easy to blame the district. But a lot has to be placed at parent's expectation for absolute guarantee that nothing will go wrong. That's an impossible guarantee. But I run into this attitude more and more these days. I'm not sure why there isn't the same high expectation of the students involved. Perhaps if a child misbehaved, parents feel that'll be a reflection on them. People are judged pretty harshly and shamed to no end these days. Or people are just scared of everything outside the womb. Power of social media to spread the good and the bad. Sometimes it acts like a tyrannical beastie than bestie.

warbler

Anonymous said...

Isn't the District's concern litigation? I think that trumps all. Field trip forms have become complex, small-print documents. Even at elementary.

Few excursions

Learned Cynic said...

I have an inside perspective on one of these incidents/suspensions. The teacher and chaperones did not follow the rules, but that wasn't the entire cause of the incident. I've been an overnight trip chaperone and I know that even if you follow the rules to a T something could still happen. Still, any teacher who takes students on overnight field trips is a fool if they don't follow the rules and procedures that exist, even the ones they disagree with, especially with the increased scrutiny the district has placed on field trips this year. This includes those on the trip I know about - i have no idea what the heck they were thinking.

It is true that students on overnight field trips to major cities have been given independent time with only text/phone contact with chaperones. I don't have a problem with that - as a high schooler 30 years ago we had time by ourselves and there were no cell phones then.

And Jan, if you think that students in band or orchestra are somehow better behaved than other students, I've got a bridge to sell you. There's no bigger group of pot users at my kids' HS than the award-winning orchestra.

Anonymous said...

I wrote in our discussions on the title 9 incident that I couldn't imagine how teachers could agree to the responsibility and assurances some parents were asking for, so I am not surprised to hear that teachers are being left behind or that try are refusing to go in field trips. If I were a teacher I wouldn't agree to overnight field trips and I can assure you that having me as a replacement as a volunteer would not make the children safer. I'm guessing we're seeing the beginning of the end of school-sponsored field trips.

zb

Melissa Westbrook said...

It is true that students on overnight field trips to major cities have been given independent time with only text/phone contact with chaperones."

I absolutely would not support this. One, because it would not be my job as a teacher or chaperone to trust the kids. I've hung around too many kids who, when in a new place, just don't always keep their heads. It only takes one kid to throw things off. Two, wandering around in an unfamiliar city? Recipe for disaster. What if a kid gets hurt? Who's the adult in charge then? Who gets that kid to the hospital, notifies parents and then explains why there was no adult with them?

I have no problem trusting my own kids but if I'm in charge of the safety/security of someone else's kids, I'd keep a very tight leash. (That said, if they had an idea for a good day trip, I'd go with them.)

Anonymous said...

I agree, Melissa. I keep a much closer eye when I watch others' kids. I have a better sense of what I can expect of my own kids, plus it's my job to raise them to be independent. I think if you're taking on the job of chaperone, however, you need to treat it like a job and give it your full attention--you shouldn't treat it like a temporary parenting assignment where your own level of strictness or laxity is the only one that matters. Treating it like a job doesn't mean there won't be unsupervised moments, but the idea of letting somebody else's kids run off on their own, alone or in groups, is nutty unless you have prior authorization from each parent that they're fine with it. If they approve, great--but that lack of supervision should also be noted on the fieldtrip form. I'm pretty sure most parents expect closer supervision than that when they sign it otherwise. We see it as an extension of school, and expect a similar level of oversight.

HF

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to have standard practices of supervision on field trips? One friend was supervising a competition trip where chaperones were not allowed on the competition fields, that means out of sight for most of the day. There was an explosion on the field caused by a faulty part that endangered students (from another group). How would that be covered in standard practices? What about theme parks? Can students be out of sight of a chaperone there? What about homestay experiences, a chaperone in every home? What about a student that flies late to join the group because of a conflict like AP testing or a college audition, does another chaperone have to come to individually chaperone that student on the flight/in the airport? Would the age of the student matter?

If we are comparing this to school supervision, what about open campuses. Most Roosevelt students were out in the neighborhood for lunch during the Cafe Racer shooting. Should the high school campuses be closed so that students are supervised by staff at all times? Riding metro buses to school alone & transferring in some areas of Seattle could be more dangerous than public transit in Vancouver.

Is it possible to have standards that apply? What would those standards be?

-fieldtrip Parent

Anonymous said...

The real issue is disclosure. If kids are doing unchaperoned homestays, the parents should know ahead of time and they are consenting to any additional risk that may entail. If you put your kid on a plane alone, you understand and weigh the risks. If public transit is too dangerous for the level of risk you're willing to accept, maybe you make alternate plans. If you have an open campus and kids are on their own for half an hour or however long it is, you determine your approach based on your own kid. (I expect most parents are fine with it, although if you have a kid who gets into a lot of trouble at lunch you might start looking at other options, right?)

The point is, you don't ask a parent to sign a permission slip--acknowledgment of risk--without providing a basic understanding of the level of risk involved. If kids will be unsupervised for x part of the day, parents should be informed of that. There's a reasonable expectation that when the kids are on a school-sponsored trip they are more closely supervised than if they were doing the trip alone or with peers only. If that's not the case, just make it clear up front.

HF

Lynn said...

I would not send a child on an overnight field trip unless I was a chaperone, a trusted friend was chaperoning, or I felt my child could be trusted to behave and was mature enough to need minimal supervision/assistance in that particular location. I'd be fine with a junior or senior in high school being out and about in NY, DC, San Francisco, etc. as long as they traveled in a group and an adult knew their plans.

I do think we'll see the end of these trips in the next year or two. Only private school students will be able to have these experiences in the future.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen an overnight fieldtrip where the itinerary wasn't planned to the minute ahead of time so that students could get to competition matches, performances, & tour events on time. Unsupervised free-time was always on the itinerary. Have you had overnight field trips where the itinerary was not part of the info packet you got ahead of time? I agree that parents should have that information.

My kids first had unsupervised time on a school field trip at Islandwood camp in 5th grade. I don't remember being surprised then, but it was a long time ago.

-fieldtrip Parent

More Questions said...


Jan writes: with the right group of kids (say, the A jazz band or the Garfield orchestra kids), in the right city, I would have NO problem letting my 17 or 18 year old child go off with friends to sight see, with phone/text access to chaperones.

But that is just me, maybe.


Maybe, maybe not. But would you agree that letting a nearly-graduated 18 year old loose in another city is different than a 14 year old freshman? Even with a buddy? What about if the travel buddy is opposite-gender? That brings up not only "couples" issues, but safety issues. Think about a boy/girl twosome, good kids, out riding the subway around NYC by themselves (yes, this is allowed, given existing buddy rules, and I can hear Melissa cringing). Lunch doesn't agree with the boy, who needs to use the restroom (or vice-versa). Girl is left completely alone for whatever duration that is, and the kids are not even going to be familiar enough with the city to know what areas are safer to stop at than others. Is the perceived benefit of the kids having all this freedom worth the eventual cost of something bad happening? And what does "in the right city" mean?

Here's a question for parents that think chaperoning means "being in the same city, available by text". Let's say your kid's class is taking a local field trip, in Seattle, is it okay to chaperone by sitting at home and promising to keep your phone turned on? Is that really chaperoning?

But this is truly a topic with lots of subtleties, gray area and questions. As fieldtrip Parent notes, there are a multitude of different scenarios that present themselves with field trips, especially high school age activities. There aren't always easy answers, and there are huge maturity differences, not just between freshman and seniors, but between individual kids. Lynn believes that traveling "in a group" is okay, but does 2 comprise a group? There are lots of gray areas and differing opinions.

HF points out that parents need to sign permission slips, and that disclosure and risk acknowledgement comes as a part of that package. But would you really single your kid out as the only one that has to stay with an adult chaperone 24/7, when all the other kids are free to roam the city? Really?? If you honestly think you're that parent, I'd love to sit in on that discussion with your kid!

And as far as transparency, take a look at the new overnight field trip forms that come home. There are checkboxes that indicate whether or not the kids will be directly supervised at all times. If not, then specific situations or times when that is not the case are supposed to be spelled out. What I've heard, and I want to be careful now, because this is secondhand and I'm not even going to say what school(s), is that those boxes are not always being filled out properly. If that's true, teachers and administrators are putting themselves at huge risk. We've already got at least 4 teachers on administrative leave, let's make sure that list doesn't grow!

Teajug said...

It's gonna be great when we finally have enough video-capable drones to follow our children around 24/7.

Hey parents -- When you're child is in high school they are responsible for their own behavior. If they make a choice on a field trip to get drunk or do drugs or bed hop then they are responsible for that choice. NOT the teacher. And NO I am not a teacher... only a poor parent.

Start holding your young adults accountable. Even better, start teaching accountability gradually beginning in kindergarten with natural consequences. Punishing a teacher for a high school student making a choice to drink, do drugs, damage property, fight, etc. is not a natural consequence. It teaches them that they are not responsible for their own behavior.

I guess I'm old now, but I can remember back in high school we were held accountable for own stupid decisions, NOT the teachers or administrators or school district. You can see parents who have decided to go down that road and teach their kids to blame everybody else and only think of themselves. You are creating unhappy children who will become miserable adults without any sense of accountability or the knowledge that they can control their own lives and destinies.

peonypower said...

I have planned field trips every year I have been teaching and had the chance to chaperone on an international field trip a few years back with an experienced pro. It was a life changing experience for those students. I have volunteered as a chaperone for my own children's trips before teaching and they were great experiences for me and my kids. Currently, there seems to be a desire to have the rich experiences that field trips offer with a guarantee of no risk at all. As a result I have given up on trying to plan any overnight field trips and am considering no longer have day trips. Sad but not worth the stress and risk.

Anonymous said...

The field trip forms are written more to protect the District than the child. We read them much more very carefully these days. Sadly, I've also told my children I will probably not chaperone any more field trips.

-notArobot

Anonymous said...

- suggesting people want "drones to follow our children around 24/7" ???
- that people are looking for a "guarantee of no risk at all"???
- comments like "But would you really single your kid out as the only one that has to stay with an adult chaperone 24/7, when all the other kids are free to roam the city?"???

My goodness, people. It's not all so either/or. Why an expectation that parents are provided a decent understanding of the level of supervision to be provided evokes such over-the-top responses is beyond me. Does free-range parenting mean anything goes? Do you know that all kids on the field trip are responsible enough for that, or do you only worry about your own?

Most high school kids are, in fact, still kids, and they don't always make great (or even good) decisions. Yes, they need to be accountable for their decisions. But we, as their parents or even temporary guardians, need to also make good decisions and be accountable to the kids. Holding the teacher responsible for a bad decision that promotes trouble doesn't mean you don't also hold the teens responsible for their actions. Making an informed decision about the acceptable level of risk and/or how to minimize it does not mean you're being overprotective.

HF

Anonymous said...

Could be worse. They could have gone to the Smitten Kitten sex toy shop for a sex ed class:

http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-private-school-takes-students-to-sex-toy-store-for-sex-education-lesson/305770831/

HP

Anonymous said...

So is this a witch hunting expedition or an admission that kids will be kids? And frankly I would not chaperone a field trip to the zoo let alone cross country with anyone's kids. They could turn around say I was stalking, harassing or being a predator. No thanks, take them yourselves.

- Former Teacher

Anonymous said...

What Teajug said. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Dear Learned Cynic,
How do you have the "facts" about the pot smoking habits of some orchestra? It sounds like an exaggeration that may not be based on actual facts and statistics. I can assume some percentage of students smoke pot, but painting with a broad brush is really unfair and smears this unknown group. Is it your child that told you? How can that child know how many smoke pot? I am sure you were not an observer to make the count. Or maybe, it is just that some do smoke pot, but that the number becomes inflated through shock or exaggeration.
NEmom

seattle citizen said...

Good ideas here: a s.o.p. that asks for details about supervision; proper caution, etc. Maybe some freedom for the students if at least parents are aware of those freedoms...but really, it might be moot. As we've seen here, some VERY experienced teachers are calling it quits on field trips. Why? Fear for their jobs. They fear that all their great planning might be for naught if something happens. The onus is too looming. Who needs it? Perhaps it's a factor of our litigious society, perhaps it's due to "data driven" people seeking to detail trips that used to be more free-flowing....perhaps it's helicopter patents or teachers taking their responsibilities for granted.
The upshot is that it's become intimidating, scary even, for a teacher to organize a field trip. What if they make a mistake? What if a student makes a mistske? The stakes seem much higher now (ironically at a time when crime rates, at least in this nation, are very low - it's a safer world out there, now, yet we are more fearful, for our kids, our students, our jobs....
But with collaboration between district, teachers, patents and students, perhaps systems could be codified that allow both supervision and freedom, responsibility without blame and overwrought repercussions (or the fear of them.)
Then there's the equity issue: how can we make it do ALL students get this kind of enrichment, not just the wealthier ones? My guess is that those who need it most, those who don't get enriching trips with their parents, don't go on the more expensive trips that are available to publuc school students with wealthier parents.....

Anonymous said...

NE mom, sad to say it, but pot use in all forms - edibles, drinkables, you name it, is on the rise during the school day. Never mind outside school. Ask any principals in MS and HS. This year alone in 5 months period, over 130 violations caught. Think of the number of kids not caught. It is affecting all kids, from all strata and programs. This is something parents need to realize. Kids won't talk about it either to their parents. Personally I do blame pot legalization for this increasing laissez faire attitude among our kids. The availability is mind boggling and I've heard it's much cheaper now. Kids think it's not addictive, not as harmful as other drugs including alcohol.

reader

Anonymous said...

Seattle Citizen,
There is financial aid through booster programs to allow students from all financial backgrounds to go on enriching field trips. I know many dedicated volunteer parents who work hard through their children's high school years to make it happen for all students. That is one of the reasons I think it is so important to continue these trips.
NEmom

seattle citizen said...

Yes, NEmom, some schools, some trips, have financial aid, but certainly not all. Many, many trips require parent funding.

Anonymous said...

As a Garfield student who was on the New Orleans trip, I would like to point out that yes, students can do bad things, but its not always the drugs and alcohol you may expect. Instead of jumping to conclusions that it was a supervision problem, consider that some situations may occur despite lack of good intentions. The Garfield choir teacher is not only well-liked, but well-loved, and has been the most influential and inspirational teacher hands-down I have ever had. I've been on many school overnight trips in middle and high school and all have been great experiences that I would never want to give up, even when there were hiccups. I have been in small student groups around New York, LA, New Orleans, and more- and have always felt that the chaperones were doing their best to supervise and that parents were informed clearly ahead of time with how the supervision would go. We're high schoolers, some of us legal adults, not 12 year olds that need to be supervised at every moment by overprotective parents. Yes, bad decisions can be made, but most of us know how our behavior needs to be.
In my opinion, the quality of education that us students receive as a result of these trips and their consequences is almost as important as safety. In a situation where the problem was not students drinking or smoking, we had a wonderful trip full of great experiences and incredible learning. As a result of the two months plus of administrative leave with zero communication from the district to the students, I feel confident saying that the education of 100+ students has suffered immensely as the vocal program has quickly deteriorated with an inadequate sub and students teaching the classes. Instead of speculating on how students drinking is the problem, think about how we haven't been learning for months as our teacher is on leave while lawyers stall to wait until the end of the year. Please don't jump to conclusions.

ghs student

Anonymous said...

Edit from previous comment: I meant despite good intentions, not despite lack of good intentions. Sorry.

ghs students

Anonymous said...

Is it true that student drinking or drug use on a field trip resulted in the GHS teacher being placed on administrative leave?

The GHS teachers who led the fieldtrip more than two years ago during which a student was sexually assaulted by a peer were never placed on administrative leave as far as I know. Quite the contrary. To my knowledge they were never disciplined, and they were exonerated by a district "investigation."

Rita

Anonymous said...

Rita- Sorry I wasn't clear. Student drinking/drug use WAS NOT the issue that caused the teacher to be placed on administrative leave from the New Orleans trip this spring. 2 years ago the sexual assault was a different incident, and as far as I know you are right that they weren't disciplined.

ghs student

Anonymous said...

Whoops- still not clear. By saying it "wasn't the issue" I mean that it didn't happen. Sorry, I'm tired.

ghs student

Learned Cynic said...

NEmom
My source of info on the use of pot among orchestra students comes from my kids, their many friends in orchestra (yes, I have spoken directly with those students), the parents of students in orchestra, the leaders of the orchestra booster club, etc. I am very involved at the school, I'm there probably at least twice a week year-round. You get to know things. Ask around at the school -- any school -- and kids/teachers/parents will tell you who does what. People want to believe that kids who do something like orchestra are somehow more wholesome than other kids, when the truth is no group is immune to the reality of being a teenager today. By the way, I'm not trying to say orchestra kids are any worse than any other group, I just found it naive to think they (or an "A" jazz band, for that matter) are "the right kids" to take on an overnight trip vs. any other group.

GHS student
I have utmost sympathy for you and the other students who have had a difficult semester following your trip and the loss of your teacher. I'm sure there are much better ways the district could be handling it, they are not known for putting students and learning ahead of bureaucracy and covering their own asses. But regardless of WHAT happened on the trip or how the district has handled it, I hope you and your classmates understand that ultimately your teacher and chaperones did not follow district field trip rules and that is why they -- and you -- are suffering the consequences.

As for the gloom and doom, I don't actually believe this will result in the end of overnight field trips if teachers are still willing to do them. Parents and others in Seattle will not just accept that incredibly talented STEM students, performing artists, athletes, etc. will be forever cut off from participation in enriching experiences and competitions. But then again, I'm an idealist at heart, despite my moniker.

Anonymous said...

Dear Learned Cynic,
Even with the stories you have heard from your children, or from your conversations with students, I still think your comment is painting with a broad brush that disparages whatever school you are speaking about. The actual numbers and usage may not be the same as the stories you have gleaned. I don't think it is fair to the other students who don't use substances to say it in a general way as if it is normalized. I do realize the point of what you are saying that some kids aren't "better" than other kids, but let's remember that most kids who are doing well in school are making good choices on a daily basis. There is an impact when people assume others are making the bad choices. There are posters in counseling offices and ad campaigns that try to influence by saying "most" kids don't do "that". Even in general talk with friends I think it is not for stories to say that a lot of kids do something, or that most kids do something because when the subject comes up within their family, it normalizes the behavior. just my opinion.
NEmom

Anonymous said...

The choir director at Garfield has received her letter of termination.
GHS supporter

Anonymous said...

As a person relatively familiar with the situation at Garfield, I can say unequivocally that no one is being served by the reported firing of the choir teacher. She is outstanding and dedicated, and probably the most responsible party in this whole affair.

Apparently the District feels it needs to have a head to roll, even though in this case it makes no sense whatsoever.

- Trust Me I Know

Anonymous said...

Reposting for Trust Me I Know--(only two word moniker allowed)

As a person relatively familiar with the situation at Garfield, I can say unequivocally that no one is being served by the reported firing of the choir teacher. She is outstanding and dedicated, and probably the most responsible party in this whole affair.

Apparently the District feels it needs to have a head to roll, even though in this case it makes no sense whatsoever.
Trust Me
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

I agree with Trust Me I Know above. The choir teacher is outstanding, dedicated and brings out the best in her students. She helps blend together all different kinds of students to work together, sing beautifully, enjoy it, etc. Firing her is doing the wrong thing. Her punishment has already been taking place for almost three months. Enough is enough. The kids have been punished even possibly more, if you calculate class time by the number of students who have not received instruction. We want the teacher back teaching choir at Garfield.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

Is the GHS choir teacher firing a bad decision because people like this particular teacher, or because the alleged offense was not that serious? Without knowing details of what happened, it's hard to either support or denounce the district's response. Just saying it "wasn't as bad a past incidents at GHS, and THOSE didn't lead to termination..." isn't good enough. Do those of you supporting the teacher in this case have solid evidence that the teacher didn't in fact majorly screw up?

Half Full

Anonymous said...

@Half Full -

The answer to your question is that the alleged offense is not remotely close to what an independent observer would consider serious enough for termination. The punishment is clearly meant to punish Garfield and probably also cover what was a huge mistake by someone in District HQ. I can't go into specifics in this public forum, but this should is not a career ruining offense by this outstanding teacher.

- Trust Me

Anonymous said...

Dear Half Full,
The reason I believe the firing is a bad idea is because I think SPS is using breaking a rule or two as an excuse to fire in response to an incident that may not have been preventable no matter how many "t"s were crossed and how many "i"s were dotted. I think they are over-reacting and trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. It is not just because I like her, but because of her amazing ability to teach students and inspire them to do their best beyond any ideas they may have had about what they could achieve. I believe their fantastic experiences in choir will serve them well in whatever they do, giving them confidence, experience working closely with people from different backgrounds, making friends with them, and did I say, beautiful beautiful music. Almost three months with no choir instruction.
GHSmom

GarfieldMom said...

Agree 100% with Trust Me. If you knew what those of us who've been privy to the details know, you would agree too. It's unbelievable to me that they would fire an outstanding teacher over this, especially when a major cause of the incident that happened was the fault of the district failing to follow their own procedures. Discipline her, yes. But we're talking about one of those teachers students remember their whole lives, the ones who inspire them to be a positive influence in the world, the teacher kids stay in touch with and thank years later with tears running down their faces when they succeed at something they tried because that teacher taught them courage and perseverance and the value of hard work. She gives 200% to the students, which for some kids is 200% more than anyone has ever given them.

To ruin her career, destroy the entire program, devastate the students, and ultimately deliver a giant FU to the school, probably in retaliation for the fact that Garfield has been a thorn in the district's side (MAP protest, walkouts, winning the fight over keeping the Latin teacher, SBAC opt-outs, etc.), is unconscionable. Just another example of the CYA, students last attitude of central admin. I am disgusted.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that a teacher is being fired for one breach of district policy, when IDEA, federal law, is violated every day in this district with complete impunity.

-2e parent

Anonymous said...

Those who are saying this teacher was so wonderful are speaking from their experiences only. If your kid was part of the group she liked, I could totally see how that would be your impression. But, I will say that wasn't everyone's experience. Neither me nor my kid are in the writing to her later with tears streaming down our faces contingent.

I am, however, in the group that thinks it sucks how things went down.

- another perspective

GarfieldMom said...

another perspective, thank you for the reminder that those of us who have had very positive experiences with this teacher and who have seen the powerful impact of her teaching on our kids and other students we know can get a little myopic. I don't mean to imply she is perfect or that all students love her. I'm sorry that your child has had a more difficult time with her. Know that at least one other choir parent is open to hearing about your experiences, if you ever want a sympathetic ear.

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to hear what people on this blog think is an offense commensurate with losing a job and completely upending one's life. This situation in no way merits something this severe. Not even close, especially considering all of the other egregious policy violations of this District.

- Trust Me

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to hear what people on this blog think is an offense commensurate with losing a job and completely upending one's life. This situation in no way merits something this severe. Not even close, especially considering all of the other egregious policy violations of this District.

Interesting way of putting things.

Whether or not losing one's job completely upends one's life isn't really an issue for me. There are lines that shouldn't be crossed, and safety precautions that should not be ignored, and if a teacher is willing to do either they probably shouldn't be responsible for our kids. Fireable offenses, in my book, include threatening or assaulting a student, sexual harassment/abuse, deliberately placing children in danger, or failing to take reasonable/expected precautions to keep children safe. We can argue about what are "reasonable precautions," but I assume there are rules in place to help clarify what is expected. Not fulfilling those expected duties, when others have entrusted their children to you, is a reasonable cause for termination.

The district's unfortunate unevenness in enforcing policy violations by others is also not an issue for me. As they say, "two wrongs don't make a right." It sucks to be one of those caught up the district's sudden and unexpected policy enforcement efforts, though--and it'll be a shame to watch these efforts not apply similarly to high level staff, as will likely be the case.

The real issue is whether or not this particular action merits this particular level of discipline. Many of those apparently "in the know" seem to think it does not, in which case I hope if this teacher has cause to sue for wrongful termination, she does so.

HF

Anonymous said...

Adult chaperones drinking in New Orleans, and a known weird student attempts something offensive against another student while outside the view of the teacher or chaperones, and it's the teacher that gets fired. So teachers are now strictly liable for anything that happens on a field trip, whether they had the power or opportunity to prevent it, or not. If a brick falls on a kid's head, fire the teacher. Sound ridiculous? That's where we are. Brilliant.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Wait a second, WSDWG. So you're saying teachers should be allowed to drink while they're chaperoning, because after all, they are adults? I suppose it's ok if they drink at school, too? Or is it only the chaperones who are allowed to drink, since they are volunteers? The chaperone guidelines clearly say otherwise, and it seems 100% reasonable to expect those charged with providing oversight of our kids to abstain for a couple days. Any teacher on a f/t should also know that the volunteer chaperones should not drink--and if they are all out to dinner and the chaps start ordering drinks, the teacher should tell them they aren't supposed to. Now if some chaperones are drinking behind the teacher's back, or if the teacher tries to stop them but they drink anyway, that's another story. I can't tell from your scenario which applies.

I'm also curious about that "known weird student" reference. That seems to imply that since this student was considered more likely to be a problem, nobody should be surprised--or blamed--when it comes to pass. However, if you know you have a student more likely to cause trouble, why wouldn't you watch that much closer? Your excuse makes no sense.

So teachers are now strictly liable for anything that happens on a field trip, whether they had the power or opportunity to prevent it, or not.

So are you saying the teacher in such a case had no way to prevent the trouble? Efforts to not drink and/or deter other chaperones from drinking might have helped. Keeping a closer eye on potential trouble makers might also have helped. If teachers are truly powerless to help keep kids safe on trips--and I'm not saying "ensure" their safety, but rather simply ensuring that reasonable precautions are taken to help keep them safe--they they have no business taking kids on trips.

HF

GarfieldMom said...

WSDWG has said too much without saying enough. Please don't speculate or judge based on that cryptic info. There's no way to answer your questions, HF, without getting into things that should not be publicly discussed right now.

Anonymous said...

If the district has decided to terminate Ms. Burton's employment, their investigation must be complete. Why is this not the time to discuss what happened?

Garfield Parent

GarfieldMom said...

Because unless someone commenting here has the report right in front of them, it's premature for anyone to discuss what happened. I could say what I believe I know happened, but I was not there and do not have a copy of the report. It's possible the info I have been given by people who were there was not the whole story. It would be irresponsible to put what I have heard out there publicly as fact.

Lynn said...

The district isn't going to release a report on their reasons for firing a teacher. If you're waiting for that, there will be no discussion. Are you willing to assume the teacher was treated fairly?

Anonymous said...

I used to volunteer for almost all the field trips, this last year I haven't gone on any. To place the blame on teachers when things happen due to TEENAGERS breaking rules is unrealistic and unfair. I remember my teen years VERY WELL, and there is NO WAY that teachers and chaperones can prevent kids breaking rules and doing something stupid and unsafe 24/7, no matter how vigilant and conscientious they are. Most teems NEVER think of consequences; they are extremely impulsive and teen group dynamics usually push them into more risky and furtive behaviors than they would attempt alone. I went to a parochial ALL GIRLS school, the nuns had GOD to back them up. Yet some of the things we did then make me cringe and think "but for the grace of God" we didn't get badly hurt whenever I think back. And my friends and I were valedictorians, athletes, top musicians, student government types who seemed matured and thoughtful, squeaky clean and obedient; and so we were, but not always.

Can't help but think those who believe their kids can be protected completely on field trips if the teachers follow all the rules have forgotten completely their teen years.
As I'm only a parent and still not willing to take the risk of chaperoning and being blamed, I think all teachers should refuse to take kids on field trips unless they aren't blame for kids' behavior when they're away from home and are in a gaggle of self absorbed, inexperienced and impulsive teens.

Anonymous said...

�� Sorry, reposted because forgot to sign

I used to volunteer for almost all the field trips, this last year I haven't gone on any. To place the blame on teachers when things happen due to TEENAGERS breaking rules is unrealistic and unfair. I remember my teen years VERY WELL, and there is NO WAY that teachers and chaperones can prevent kids breaking rules and doing something stupid and unsafe 24/7, no matter how vigilant and conscientious they are. Most teems NEVER think of consequences; they are extremely impulsive and teen group dynamics usually push them into more risky and furtive behaviors than they would attempt alone. I went to a parochial ALL GIRLS school, the nuns had GOD to back them up. Yet some of the things we did then make me cringe and think "but for the grace of God" we didn't get badly hurt whenever I think back. And my friends and I were valedictorians, athletes, top musicians, student government types who seemed matured and thoughtful, squeaky clean and obedient; and so we were, but not always.

Can't help but think those who believe their kids can be protected completely on field trips if the teachers follow all the rules have forgotten completely their teen years.
As I'm only a parent and still not willing to take the risk of chaperoning and being blamed, I think all teachers should refuse to take kids on field trips unless they aren't blame for kids' behavior when they're away from home and are in a gaggle of self absorbed, inexperienced and impulsive teens.

CCA