Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Carol Burton wants her job back

There's a story in the Seattle Times about Carol Burton, who lost her job for violating field trip procedures.

The story outlines her argument but it leaves out her best one: when other teachers violated field trip procedures - in worse ways with worse consequences - they were not disciplined at all.

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

I recall reading in the deposition documents posted here that the male student also groped a female student on the bus, which had nothing to do with chaperone violations of district policy. He should not have been allowed to participate on a school field trip given his past history at Blanchet, which no one at Garfield was aware of. The argument should start there.

PW

mirmac1 said...

The District is all about throwing whomever under the bus to protect principals and Central Office. The only time that I recall this did not happen was with the former Ex Director of SpEd. If the stank somehow permeates up, a substantial golden parachute is offered....

Anonymous said...

Someone asked a few weeks ago for an update on how the Garfield Choir is doing after Burton.

No one responded.

At the bottom of the article ... Garfield hasn't hired a permanent replacement for her, and filled in with substitutes all year.

There are lots of want to be certificated music teachers out there, and very few jobs. The biggest problem often is the need for a specialized position like a high school choir teacher that isn't a 1.0 FTE having to cobble together other gigs within the district and travel between schools every day in order to get a 1.0 FTE position.

Or is this Ted Howard holding the position open hoping that Burton will prevail?

So what's the issue here?


northwesterner

GarfieldMom said...

Garfield Choir is doing fairly well, all things considered. In fact, they have a concert tonight, 7PM -- come see and hear for yourselves!

The school did hire a teacher on a one-year contract for this school year. Unfortunately, this person, despite seeming highly qualified, simply couldn't cope with the demands and did not seem suited to teaching in an urban high school. He left Garfield last month, so they are indeed back to substitutes and student direction. (Student direction was already happening before the teacher left. You can't really expect motivated self-directed learners to settle for less than what they need.) Apparently, there are ZERO qualified subs in the district for the job. The parent group for the choir has hired someone to assist in getting them ready for tonight's concert and other events this school year. The theatre department has again had to find an outside musical director, spending many thousands of dollars (thankfully, with the help of the PTSA) that SHOULD be going to other needs in the program and in the school. These are parent dollars. The district is doing nothing to help.

The position of choir director for next year has been listed. While it might not be difficult to find a "music teacher" in need of a job, this job requires someone who can teach choir and piano, plus someone who can coach musical theatre singing (a particular style) and the ability to conduct a pit orchestra. And then of course it has to be someone capable of working with a diverse, highly talented group of students.

Yes, we all want Ms. Burton back. But neither the school nor parents are sitting on their hands awaiting the outcome of her appeal. We are doing what we can in the best interests of the students, dealing with the hand that the district has dealt us.

If you want to show Garfield some support, again, there's a concert tonight and a musical (The Addams Family) coming up at the end of May, and we'd love for you to come see what our students do!

Anonymous said...

northwesterner, during the appeal, there was a long term qualified sub or a temporary one year qualified teacher who has taken a leave of absence recently.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to the all choirs concert tonight at GHS.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think that the policy prohibiting boys and girls being in the same room is maybe a little wrong-headed to begin with? I have not followed this case, but the teacher said in the Times article that she found the policy to be discriminatory toward LGBT students. I agree with her on that, and I also think that even if we are talking about students who do not identify as LGBT, policies that separate boys and girls imply that platonic friendships between them are somehow wrong or abnormal. I have a teen-aged son (and a daughter) and I think that the more he regards girls as full-fledged humans, the LESS likely he is to treat them poorly. Maybe I am being naive, but this was my first reaction to this story.

-Middle School Mom

Patrick said...

I read the investigative report of the incident. Yes, Garfield should have been notified of the boy's behavior issues, and the JSCEE staff responsible for failure to notify them should suffer career consequences similar to Ms. Burton. (Was the staffer even identified? Not in the report, as I remember.) But Ms. Burton's actions were also partly responsible. Her instructions to the choir members created the impression that the important thing was to avoid reports of trouble, which led the victims to tolerate incessant groping rather than report it for far too long. Ms. Burton's tolerating the chaperones drinking, and drinking herself, where the students could see added to the impression that it didn't matter what people actually did, as long as they didn't report anything. What if a teacher were having a glass of wine in her classroom at lunchtime with students around? Even if you think it would be okay, she also agreed to a code of conduct. She should be setting an example to her students by keeping her agreements.

Middle School Mom, I don't see how the policy is discriminatory. LGBT are changeable states, as we saw in this incident. A boy who identified as gay was clearly exhibiting non-platonic interest in the girls. Should we have mixed-sex locker rooms and bathrooms? If not, how is it different?

Charlie Mas said...

Of course boys and girls can have non-romantic or non-sexual relationships. And there was no rule against boys and girls sharing company with each other anywhere other than the hotel rooms. They could spend time together in the halls, in the lobby, in the courtyard, just not in the rooms.

There were three separate reports of sexual harassment. I know that one occurred on the bus and one in a hotel room. I can't recall where the other one happened. The girls delayed reporting for fear that their teacher would get in trouble.

Turns out they were right about that.

Anonymous said...

Patrick, I was at the pre trip meeting, and the emphasis on the rules was not on avoiding reports of trouble, the emphasis was on not having trouble. When you read the report you may have read that the girls were hesitant to report the trouble that had occurred, but it wasn't hushed up in any way. As soon as the info came out the incident was reported. How those girls understood the advance instructions about trip rules, and what they were thinking about trouble for the choir if something happened could be where you may have differently interpreted what was intended and instructed at the pre trip meeting.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

As I see it, a teacher who agrees to the rules/policies then decides to blatantly ignore them just because they don't agree with them really doesn't belong on staff. You can make the case that the policy is wrong and fight it proactively, or you can take a gamble that you'll get away with ignoring it. She gambled and lost. It if were one small lapse in judgment, firing would be too much. But this teacher made multiple bad calls--drinking, allowing her chaperones to drink, allowing coed rooms, and promoting a general atmosphere in which the rules were seen as irrelevant or unimportant--any one of which increased the likelihood of a bad outcome. When we send our kids away in the care of teachers, we have a right to expect that the teachers will adhere to the rules presented, whether they agree with them or not.

NotYourCall

Anonymous said...

NotYourCall, Don't say she allowed coed rooms--that implies something that is not true. We are talking about a bit a free time between scheduled events/activities and before curfew.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

Patrick, I do not really believe that LGBT are changeable states for all children, nor do I want to speculate on the gender or sexual identity of any of the children involved in this incident (clearly none of my business). My comment had more to do with district policy than with the case in question. I guess I just find the policy to be a little old fashioned, and my personal opinion is that girls and boys would ultimately be safer if we didn't criminalize hanging out together in a room that happens to contain beds, but instead focused on behavior that is actually criminal (like sexual assault). For what it's worth, I am okay with coed bathrooms too. They are pretty common on college campuses. I even have them in my home!

Middle School Mom

Anonymous said...

@GHS Mom, "A bit of free time between scheduled events and activities and before curfew" could easily have, and should have, occurred in public spaces - not hotel rooms. Please don't muddy the waters here. It is this type of lack of clarity from parents and teachers that helps kids make poor decisions. -NP

Anonymous said...

@ Middle School Mom - Co-ed bathrooms in your home are completely different from co-ed bathrooms at school. And college students are usually in a different place (mentally, emotionally, and physically) than middle schoolers or high schoolers so the comparison is not apt. Rather than finding the district policy "old fashioned", I find it sensible. No one is criminalizing hanging out together - by all means go hang out in Starbucks or explore the city together. -NP

Anonymous said...

So I am confused, the policy to not allow mixed gender in hotel rooms before curfew let alone after is discriminatory and so the teacher allowed it to happen pre curfew and wow a kid who identified himself as gay was permitted to not follow the rules because of his identity, then seem to behave in a manner that made young girls uncomfortable regardless of his identity, demonstrating that regardless of one's identity this policy has a purpose and a reason, to protect kids from this happening and in turn protect the adults from any potential liability.

And this is the problem? A kid who had a history of problems which no one seemed to know about it and those who did chose not to tell any of those who in turn be exposed to potential liability and in turn any of those exposed to a child who many in turn risk their safety as well.

There are about three different court cases here. Teacher who ignores policy and in turn is fired for it.

District that chooses not to share essential history and information about a student that would help avoid this from happening

A family that allowed a child to go knowing that their child had emotional problems and should perhaps out of concern for their own child being in a situation that has challenged him in the past and that it risks him (as well as potentially others) as well.

So this Teacher wants her job back and it appears that if she doesn't she will be "labeled" forever for being a rule breaker and failing to protect children which she did both directly and indirectly... and in turn to a school that has had by far more dangerous field trip results and those teachers are in turn still hired at the same school?

Well there seems to be a problem at that school.. and those dynamics as well.

What other schools has this happened to this level.. then this becomes a district problem and all of this should come out in court and be a matter of public record so that parents can know of this.

I have heard interesting stories about Garfield and this seems to confirm them .

- Nosy Parker

Anonymous said...

I had "cool parents" who were fine with coed friendships, even coed sleepovers. We were band kids, good kids who didn't get in trouble. Nerds. This was all true, but we were also young teenagers with hormones and stuff happened at sleepovers, probably on the bus to games, etc. When we had overnight trips, our teachers and chaperones were much stricter as a group than as individual parents and rules about staying in your room were first and foremost. It seemed a little over-the-top (chaperones took turns being on all-night watch) but you know? We never had problems like Garfield.

On a separate note, in college I lived in co-ed dorms with co-ed bathrooms. Completely different environment, starting with the fact that everyone was respectful of sharing a living space, were consenting adults, and had their own rooms or could leave campus to go on dates. Not the same thing at all.

-New Mom

Anonymous said...

Nosy Parker,
Life is very complicated. Nothing is black and white--there are many grey areas that depend on judgment. It is easy for an outsider to be judgmental after an incident, but there are so many different issues, not all of them solvable by "court cases".
GHSmom

GarfieldMom said...

Nosy Parker -- if other schools were under the scrutiny that Garfield gets, if other schools fought back against injustice like Garfield does, you would see their problems too. Scratch the surface, this happens at every school. You just don't know about it.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, Garfield had a rape occur on a field trip and were being sued over it. In fact the whole incident gave rise to the group Stop Sexual Assault in Schools who is helping other high school rape victims. Garfield was under a microscope and the teacher should have been aware of that. Every teacher and chaperone on all Garfield field trips should have been extra cautious and ensure that the rules were followed to the T whether they agreed with them or not. Yes, people at JSCEE should have been held to the same standards but that doesn't excuse this teacher's behavior.

HP

Anonymous said...

I agree with HP as GHS mom said they are under such a microscope and of course some they bring upon themselves as they are not afraid to rabble and rouse they have to hold themselves to a higher standard... agree or not they need to show how they handle themselves after said assault that they can and will have no further problems.

As for the other schools well they did not make the national or local news and that may be a good thing or not and why not? Cover up or simply handled better.

Frankly every time I do see a school with a problem it is often Garfield, from hazing, to a teacher sleeping with a student, to private classes, private speakers, rapes, and the earlier field trip with the same Teacher who had problems then.. man oh man how does that school maintain such reputation.. and what is that reputation?

- Nosy Parker

Anonymous said...

Nosy Parker,
I really think your comments are painting a broad brush of GHS. What do you mean earlier field trip with same Teacher who had problems then. If you are speaking about the choir teacher, I do not believe there were any allegations about wrongdoing on her part from prior trips. Garfield gets press but that may be because there is a strong community at GHS. Maybe other schools keep things quieter for some reason. It is not kind to malign a whole school with broad comments.
GHSmom

Eric B said...

GarfieldMom, you're saying that the other high schools have special classes for a couple of top sports players? They have sexual assaults on their field trips? And the fact that Garfield is getting pinged on those and nobody else does is because Garfield stands up against the Man?

I dunno, it just doesn't add up for me.

I won't argue that other schools' chaperones all follow the JSCEE rules to the letter, and maybe the other schools are just lucky. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the failures on the second field trip. Anyone who thought that Garfield field trips weren't going to be under a microscope had their heads in the sand. Even my daughter's high school trip to NatureBridge knew that it would be under scrutiny due to the Garfield incident there. I don't understand why a Garfield teacher would slack off on field trip standards.

Anonymous said...

Page Cornwell, reporter for Seattle Times, is doing a long piece on the policies governing overnight field trips and parent issues with them. Contact her if this affects you as a parent and would like to speak on the matter. pcornwell@seattletimes.com

-Cristina

Anonymous said...

Based on the Carol Burton's comments and the transcript of the investigation, it seems the parents/chaperones played a big part in fostering a slipshod environment. It was part of Burton's job to be in charge, and she even said (I'm paraphrasing) that she had second thoughts or balked at the offer to have cocktails with the parents. A few of these adults went overboard. I'm not a Garfield parent so I have no idea if these same parents worked to deflect blame. Did they?

A talented teacher who falls down generally deserves another chance, barring a capital crime. And that's where the inconsistency lies. On Burton's watch, bad things happened, but unlike sexual predators who were allowed to continue teaching (Broadview-Thomson, Whitman, etc), she was promptly tarred and fired.

Based on the legal, as well as political climate, it's unlikely she'll continue her career at Garfield. Given every bad thing that's happened at GHS over the years (and they - do - have a notable history of really bad things that aren't notable just because parents are outspoken), it's obvious that not all teachers and principals are treated with consistency. Ted Howard is still standing, but then he's a legacy. Burton's legacy of being a fantastic choir director is no match for Howard's.

Are teachers who fall down on the job punished equally? No. In the SPS history, many who have done far worse than Burton were allowed to continue doing evil, and the people who should've stopped them are still leading schools. That is why I disagree that Burton deserved to lose her job.

Westside


Anonymous said...

GHS mom

Read the report there was an earlier problem on another trip to NYC where a student was "arrested" attempting to buy marijuana and was returned to the field trip without further incident... again I read the "investigation"

And yes while other schools have had problems and sadly Teachers were ignored when they brought the issues up at Broadview Thompson and Whitman, and there was the druggie dude at the Interagency, there have been some allegations, some investigations but nowhere near the level and scope that GHS seems to have annually. There is always some "thing" or another putting that school in the news and not always in good way.

Again, it concerns me as it would anyone on the sidelines observing

- Nosy Parker

Patrick said...

Westside, when I follow your reasoning to its conclusion, I don't like it. Some teachers and principals who should have been removed from their jobs in the past weren't removed, therefore the district can never remove anyone for anything short of murder?

This wasn't just one bad judgement call, it was a series of them. I appreciate that she was a loved teacher, and if the job was just teaching choir in school she would probably be fine. But if my kid were in choir with a possibility of an overnight field trip, I wouldn't be happy with her in charge.

Anonymous said...

Nosy Parker,
After that boy bought marijuana from a cop and Ms. Burton got him out, that boy was kept at the hotel with a chaperone watching him until going to the airport and returning home when the flight time came. I heard about this incident at the pre trip meeting explaining what not to do. It was explained how the chaperone and the boy and his family all had their New York plans ruined by this boy's action. No, he did not continue with the field trip.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

So I am confused here that there is not a problem with field trips and that this is just another example of a problem, with the same teacher, no?

I don't think firing her is all that a bag of chips but there is the inconsistency in this district about the rules and regs and this coming right after Nature Bridge.. yikes it is unfortunate but if the dudes who take the kids to Hawaii or just to Discovery Park at this point don't follow the rules to the letter I think they just finally saw the straw that broke the camel's proverbial back. I have no doubt she is good at her job but she failed to follow rules regardless of the school districts own failures here so this is what you get.. someone has to be the fall gal.

Testify at her trial, be an advocate that way.. this blog doesn't have any impact whatsoever.. so why you care what I think is irrelevant and the same way I do you of you.. we agree to disagree. And nothing will change that.

- Nosy parker

Anonymous said...

Why do I care? When facts are faulty and put on the blog, that is bad. I don't care what you think, but it is not fair to say things that are not true. If all procedures were followed when a kid does something that is not allowed, it shouldn't be said he "continued as part of the field trip."
GHSmom

Lynn said...

@Nosy parker,

It is also unfair to say "this is just another example of a problem, with the same teacher" if you're referring to the boy who was arrested in New York. Ms. Burton was not responsible for his behavior and she responded to it appropriately.

Eric B said...

I think the firing and lawsuit indicate two major things, neither of them a surprise to anyone with time in SPS: Rules and policies are applied differently and disproportionately in different cases, and the district seems afraid of bad PR more than anything.

If Ms. Burton deserved firing for breaking a rule and possibly endangering a student, then a whole bunch of other people did as well in various situations. Charlie can provide a list for high-level JSCEE staff. If those people didn't deserve firing, why did Ms. Burton? Because of bad press related to another field trip incident at Garfield. I am baffled as to why Mr. Howard still has a job after the sheer number of bad press incidents.

That said, a teacher in the current environment should expect to have to dot all the i's and cross all the t's on a field trip or risk firing if something happens that causes bad press. Garfield teachers doubly so, since field trip problems are more likely to attract bad press.

GarfieldMom said...

I don't know what Garfield ever did to make people think the district is the good guy for once. Seriously, people, why do so many of you seem to think you know what really goes on at Garfield? You don't even go here! (Points for getting that reference.)

And why do people think they know enough to judge this teacher and this situation? Do you really think reading some news articles or an investigative report gives you a well-rounded picture of a situation? Can you really say you know who Carol Burton is, what kind of teacher and person she is, how valuable she is to the school, the dedication she has to teaching, what a difference she makes in students' lives, and whether she has exercised good professional judgment in her day-to-day work in the school for the past 15 years, when you've never met her, haven't spent even a minute in her classroom, and have not had a child in her classes?

Every parent of a GHS choir student I know would absolutely send their child on a field trip with Ms. Burton again. Do you think we're all idiots, or do you think maybe we just know her a heck of a lot better than those outside of our school? Are we misguided, terrible parents, or are we just like you, only with a lot more information and personal experience to base our decisions on? Hundreds of parents, other teachers, students and former students, and other professionals have written letters in support of Burton. Maybe you think she's paying us?? I'm really scratching my head here.

Everyone here should be a little less concerned with whether Garfield is a cesspool of dysfunction and depravity and a little more concerned about how the district has handled this whole thing, up to and including this hearing. Sarah Pritchett was caught by the judge perjuring herself, for heaven's sake! Nyland has never considered the implications of the fact that a chaperone would have to have keys for all the hotel rooms of sleeping teenagers to do an after-curfew bed check (it doesn't take much to extrapolate the potential downsides of that...). You seriously need to watch his long, uncomfortable pause in the KING5 report from a couple days ago as it dawns on him. Oh, and he doesn't read emails and letters from parents, so don't waste your time. The district lawyer snidely declared multiple times that having to hear from Carol's colleagues, students, and parents was SUCH a huge waste of time. He was rude and impatient and couldn't have made it more clear how little the district cared about the actual human beings involved in the case.

If nothing else, go to Soup for Teachers and read the summary of the testimony of Judith Billings, former state superintendent. If someone with 50 years of professional experience thinks the district went overboard in its actions, are you, sitting at your computer knowing nothing more than what you've heard from the media or read here, going to keep arguing that you know better?

I'm so tired of this. Peace out, suckers.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's another question that has been raised: should the teacher's popularity or ease of replacement be a factor in determining punishment?

Should the District have considered how hard it would be to replace Carol Burton before deciding to dismiss her or should the penalties be the same regardless of that consequence for the District?

Should the District have considered how beloved Carol Burton is by students and families before deciding to dismiss her or should bother popular and unpopular teachers face the same punishments for the same offenses?

At Cal Berkeley there is a scandal right now because tenured professors were punished much less harshly than other staff following sexual harassment complaints. Of all of the complaints that were found to have merit all of the staff who were not tenured professors were fired but none of the professors were.

BTDT said...

Judith Billings makes her living being a plaintiff's witness and working for the WEA. You can buy her opinion for any case you would like. GarfieldMom's "peace out, suckers" stance tells you loads about the entitlement culture of GHS. Since she brought it up, let's discuss the real history of GHS. Have other schools had the following history:
1. Principal leaves under shroud of controversy over his relationship with a student cheerleader, later marries her.
2. Teacher commits suicide on the eve of an investigation interview related to his sexual relationships with students (including sex acts on field trips) and his lack of supervision of students in field trips (too busy grooming them to supervise).
3. Student gets raped on an field trip in Africa, where she was left unsupervised with a stranger.
4. Fake leases, fake classes, and fake grades are created for star basketball players.
5. Teacher fired for going to a high school party and having oral sex with students.
6. Student gets raped on poorly supervised trip to Olympic National Forrest. Male student athlete vigorously defended by GHS admin while victim is allowed to be run through the mud.
7. Coaches are hired and fired based not on qualification, but the desires of patron former student/former professional athletes and the preferences of potential student athlete parents that are being recruited to GHS.
8. Knowing all of this and the problems that happened on her own past field trips, Burton chooses not to follow the rules.

Is there a common theme? Yes. Teflon Ted should be held accountable to a greater degree than he has been. And the GHS community needs to stop viewing themselves as being above the rules.

BTDT said...

Not to mention the GHS hazing debacle. That is a unique to GHS "tradition".

Lynn said...

It's an interesting question. Why does Ted Howard still have his job?

Anonymous said...

Thank you BTDT I feel that the list is incomplete somehow.

There is a culture at Garfield that reflects the dynamics the two tier school with sports another layer within a layer. Recall the sports recruiting scandal with RBHS and later with Bellevue I believe. It goes on and on with Howard the central figure in many of these issues.

I have a good friend who used to substitute teach in the district and the stories out of Garfield made my hair stand on end. What makes it have such a stellar reputation? The ability to bury the bones I guess.

But a Teacher's "popularity" can be a double edged sword, someone liked, who is good a their job is often one with a target on their back. I think it was last year they had on the job postings the director of the music program.. there have been others who found themselves "retired" prematurely. The same friend said that the packed up this Teacher's room and she was told she would no longer be teaching health, another her business class so they had to either teach the classes they had not been doing for years or take retirement.

Have some of the scandals happened in other schools? yes but to the depth and breadth they happen at GHS is fascinating. It should be a reality show.. The Real Teachers of Garfield

- Nosy Parker

BTDT said...

I concur, but his SPS nickname is Teflon Ted for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I am boggled by the rallying around a teacher that admittedly consumed alcohol while supervising a field trip. She could be the best teacher ever, but she made bad decisions, in front of her students, breaking district policies and rules. And as previously pointed out, that gives the impression to students that following the rules is not necessary for "everyone".

Why should her previous performance and/or likeability be taken into account if she broke rules/district policies that could put kids in jeopardy? While the district/Nyland definitely need to be held accountable for withholding important information on the male student, I agree with the firing of Ms. Burton 100%.

--perplexed SPS mom

Anonymous said...

There's no doubt that there's a problem with the culture of the district, as I think Charlie has pointed out numerous times before. And there might well be a problem with some of Garfield's culture (hazing is one that, in my experience, takes time and effort to stop - you basically have to get rid of all older kids and teachers who have been complicit). Many people made poor choices on that trip, to be sure.

And one of the people who made poor choices is Ms. Burton. No matter how professional she may be, drinking with chaperones on a trip where you're meant to be responsible for children is not a professional choice. Period. Maybe Suzie and Bobby and Steve were also misbehaving and ought to be punished, but whether or not they were doesn't change whether Jane was misbehaving. If all the other parents were drinking and jumped off a bridge, that doesn't mean you should too. I can go on all day with this.

Or imagine if the issue weren't clouded. If the only one drinking on that trip was the teacher. If everything else was handled correctly by the district.

I'd still be okay with firing that teacher, because it's a dangerous, irresponsible decision and on an overnight trip with children the adults shouldn't be making dangerous, irresponsible choices.

-New Mom

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

I agreed. But you need a name. RePosting for:

Anonymous4/8/16, 5:15 PM

Ms. Burton absolutely knew she was not supposed to drink, she absolutely knew the chaperones were not supposed to either, and she absolutely knew that boys and girls were not supposed to hang out in hotel rooms together. She was fully aware of all of those, and made conscious decisions, on multiple occasions, to ignore the policies she had already agreed to uphold. She gambled, and lost. It's unfortunate to lose a good teacher, but if you can't trust your employee to hold up their end of the bargain, you have to let them go.

Parents entrust their children to teachers, and need to know that the district is going to hold teachers accountable for responsible behavior on field trips, and at all times. Whether or not parents like and trust this particular teacher is irrelevant. Allowing a teacher to decide to ignore the rules they don't agree with is bad policy all around, and a liability for the district in the event of future incidents.
-------

-SWWS

Anonymous said...

Nosy Parker "...there have been some allegations, some investigations but nowhere near the level and scope that GHS seems to have annually."

Just to give you a sense of scale of the bad things inside SPS, not limited to GHS:

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2008/06/more-clarity-in-what-did-or-didnt.html

Terri Skjei is still the principal of View Ridge. Why did she go from Broadview-Thomson to plum assignment at well-regarded school? Often times, a problem principal is relegated to a desk. Not in this case.

A teacher who admits mistakes is easier to trust than a principal who deflects blame by ignoring and forgetting. I understand that Larry Nyland can't retroactively punish wrong doers before his tenure, but when there are current SPS principals who've made a career of ignoring and forgetting, I question why a teacher gets the axe while they remain in place.

The problem is greater than one teacher and one field trip.

Westside

Anonymous said...

Westside, are you saying that punishing all indiscretions should be on hold until the old messes are cleaned up?

-New Mom

Anonymous said...

Comparing the failures of a school, Principal and district to investigate the allegations of potential rape and molestation is well akin to the Catholic Church and irony that they are both institutions that offer both good and service to the community while the acts of some do wide damage and destruction that is hard to overcome.

So when the church realized that this was a larger problem they too are trying to reconcile with their past and move into the future. And while Garfield had just had the year prior a massive scandal that had ended up in allegations of rape yet no charges were filed, it prompted the district to ensure that all future field trips had tighter policies to hope and believe that this may not happen again.

And while we all think that the Nature Bridge was an abhorrent singular event, this particular school of all particular schools has had a series of events, some in the distant past some less so but this particular school has been under a microscope. And unlike the problems at Broadview Thompson or that of Whitman were horrendous it has been noted that no other significant problems of that level have ever occurred again.

And we know that there are many schools in Seattle that have had numerous indiscretions and problems.. the drugie Teacher at the Interagency, the sexting kids this year at Madison and I am sure there are more.. but again no school has experienced more attention than that of Garfield.

So if I was teaching there and planning a field trip to the Seattle Center I would follow the protocol to the letter and add a few more requirements and restrictions to ensure not only the safety of the students by my own as well given again the inconsistencies of the district when it comes to following their own procedures. The irony is not lost so I would make it as challenging as possible to find fault with anything I did short of hiring armed guards to protect kids from any possible mishap.

This boy harmed a girl and this is the problem. Given the lax attitude about that and that the boy professed to be gay the teacher saw no potential harm. Well I don't care if he is Caitlyn Jenner I would say here is the deal "Cait" you are not allowed to share with a girl until you fully become one or if the field trip is in North Carolina, never.. but otherwise this is the deal here. I don't agree, don't like it bu that is what rules are.

As for her having a drink, again that is what the rules say. I know that we are not saying if she had not been slapping down a wine this would not have happened but the reality is that is the rules, so live without the booze for the three days. The booze had nothing to do with the boys behavior or the situation it was just another rule broken.

These were the rules put in place at the time, these are the ones you agree and sign a contract to when you agree to work in the public schools. I am sure there are many absurd rules that many don't agree, find useful or are discriminatory but until you have a valid reason to demonstrate why they need to be changed, you put up or you shut up

Should Ms. Burton be fired? I don't know the woman, don't have a dog in this race but I agree that policy was violated and that this could have been worse. Thankfully it wasn't. I do think that the district cold have relocated her in the same fashion they did to Greenfield, put her in an elementary school or middle school, allow no field trips and then after a time she could reapply for her job or for a similar one at a high school or elsewhere without all the public drama and stain on her resume. She should not be vilified for this and that is just another layer of tragedy that resulted.
- Nosy Parker

Melissa Westbrook said...

I hope to have a thread with documentation provided by parents and students who support Ms. Burton.

My take is this:

- Ms. Burton seems to have created a very successful music program that both parents and students support and enjoy. Because of that, I perceive that like many music/athletic directors, she has some latitude in what she does on school-sponsored trips (whether that's okay is another thing.)

- But Ms. Burton had some serious lapses of judgement on this trip that cannot be overlooked. That there was more than one is troubling.
No one should have been drinking especially not Ms. Burton.

As to hotel room issue, look, these kids are not on vacation - they are on a school trip. Big difference. Are their opportunities for them to relax and socialize? Sure, on the plane/train/car, in the lobby, at meals, at the venue, etc. There are more reasons to keep kids in their assigned rooms at assigned curfew times than sex/gender issues. You don't need keys to every room to do a bed check. You need a couple of sharp chaperones.

It is not evident to me that Ms. Burton ever took her concerns about the gender issues and overnight trips to her principal, ex director, superintendent or school board. If they are so pressing, then she should work to change that policy, not decide it doesn't apply to her students.

But here's my middle ground - don't dismiss her. She has proven to be a good teacher and music leader. Just don't allow her on field trips. Some other teacher can do that. I know, "she knows the program,the students, etc. to which I say, does she want to keep her job or not? There has to be some kind of protection for the district and its liability for kids on a trip. Burton seems to be a liability they don't need.

If the parents of the girls who were allegedly molested signed off that they will not sue the district, then the district is off the hook for this incident.

Keeping Ms. Burton as a fine teacher but not allowing that liablity on field trips to happen again would seem to be the way to go and everyone wins something.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa - I am deeply concerned by your post above where you write -"if the parents of the girls who were allegedly molested signed off that they will not sue the district, then the district is off the hook on its instance." Why should the girls or their parents be pressured by you or anyone else to give up their legal rights? You have put them in a terrible position of being pressured by peers, the GHs administration and others. Your comment discourages kids from coming forward with their concerns after they are assaulted. - NP

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant "...for this incident" not "on its instance." -NP

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that she should be rehired and on field trips there should be a second teacher as well as chaperones who follow rules. It is the students who enrich their choir experience by going on trips and singing with mass choirs that are conducted or adjudicated by nationally known choral conductors. It is the students who suffer when we punish her with no trips.
GHSmom

Anonymous said...

Now on this one I can see it both ways. As a musician, the conductor is an integral part of a performance, and I couldn't imagine, say, traveling to a competition and not being conducted by the usual person. On field trips that are just for fun, that's a horse of a different color (though honestly I don't know if choruses are always actively conducted, to be honest). But another issue would be the respect of the students and parent chaperones. Clearly a culture of disregarding the rules has been going on for some time. They may want Burton back, but if she says "okay guys, we're going to follow every rule to the letter and I mean it this time" will they all really listen?

-New Mom

Anonymous said...

Why exactly should the district have to pay for the services of two teachers because one (Ms. Burton) is incapable of following really basic rules? Why should children who were subject to sexual harassment and sexual assult be asked to waive claims by the district? And as taxpayers, why should be sitting back waiting to pay the HUGE judgement or settlement the next time she breaks the rules (she doesn't have to be on a field trip to be in charge of the well being of kids, as a former band kid, I can tell you that a lot of inappropriate things happened in the band room when the adults weren't supervising well) and students are harmed? Because seriously, imagine the attorney for those children's families identifing exactly how the district was on notice that Ms. Burton has poor judgement and supervision skills? No way, no how. Ms. Burton should be done and Mr. Howard should be on probation, if not under investigation on the lead up to his termination.

-SWWS

Melissa Westbrook said...

NP, I'm not pressuring anyone. I offered an opinion. I have no idea who the girls are or their parents and would never tell anyone what to do. I offered a way forward.

Anonymous said...

The KING5 TV story has clips of Nyland's testimony, explaining that Carol Burton presents too much of a liability to the district to be rehired.

--Paul

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, Paul. I believe that is the central issue for the district - they can't afford to have something else happen and parents sue the district for keeping a teacher that they knew didn't always follow rules.