Teacher suspended over condom demonstration to return to classroom
Columbus, Starkville & Golden Triangle
November 20, 2015 3:52:40 PM
A suspended Starkville High School teacher will be returning to the classroom after a district investigation.
The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District suspended Sheree Ferguson after a student reportedly gave a presentation using cucumbers to demonstrate proper condom usage in Ferguson's English class on Nov. 12.
State law and school district policy forbid discussion condoms or demonstrating how to use them.
This afternoon, the district released a statement saying Superintendent Lewis Holloway, assistant superintendents Toriano Holloway and Jody Woodrum, and SHS Principal David Baggett determined "appropriate disciplinary action" for the matter.
"While the condom demonstration that occurred during the presentation is a violation of Mississippi law and school board policy," the release states, "the resulting personnel issues goes beyond that scope to include how the employee involved responded during an inquiry regarding the presentation."
District spokesperson Nicole Thomas declined to comment on the nature of the disciplinary action, citing a personnel issue. Thomas also could not comment on the length of Ferguson's suspension, but did confirm that she will return to continue teaching.
"We consider the issue resolved and we look forward to the employee returning to the classroom," the release states
Ferguson's suspension sparked a community outcry.
A change.org petition, titled "Bring Ms. Ferguson back to Starkville High," gathered more than 2,800 signatures by Friday afternoon. The Dispatch reached out to the petition creators, but has did not receive a response by press time.
This morning, a group of 30 to 50 students marched at the school in support of Ferguson, changing "Bring Ferg back."
Camryn Dawkins, a junior, said she came up with the idea to protest Ferguson's suspension and worked with SHS senior Tyrese Kelly to get word out to students through the messaging app GroupMe.
"I was in the class when it happened and I just felt that what was done was perfectly OK, and that's my judgement," Dawson said. "I love Ms. Ferg to death. Ms. Ferg is the best English teacher I've ever had and we just wanted to take a stand as students for what we believe in. Our voice isn't heard enough and we felt like this was something that was dear and close to our hearts."
he petition alleges that a student gave a presentation on sexology for a career talk demonstration in Ferguson's honors English class. The petition further claims that Ferguson had no prior knowledge of the condom demonstration, which wasn't finalized until 10 p.m. the night before.
Four years ago, the state Legislature passed House Bill 999, mandating that schools adopt a sex education policy -- either "abstinence-plus" or "abstinence-only." This was done in response to the state's high rate of teen pregnancy, in which Mississippi ranked second in 2011, and sexually transmitted diseases, where Mississippi had the highest rate of teen chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2012.
SOCSD operates an abstinence-plus sex education policy, which requires boys and girls be separated into different classes when it is discussed or taught and prohibits instruction and demonstration on the application and use of condoms, among other stipulations.
District policy also states schools providing sex education are required to provide a written notice to parents no less than one week before the instruction occurs.
It is unknown if these policies were met prior to the Starkville High student's presentation.
The message on this again is a dual one.
One: The reality of sex education in public schools is tied to funding. Teaching "abstinence only" is part of Title I federal funding in which schools that do or in this case do not teach sex education get allotted funds to well ostensibly do nothing. A waste of taxpayer money and just another example of how the federal government manipulates, extorts and demands states to comply to some odd group of lawmakers personal obsessions or lobbyist to harm education of children. Clearly it is working as the states that advocate the lack of sex education have the highest teen pregnancies. Which costs more? The kids education on how to prevent pregnancy or a child having a child and the extraneous costs that it encompasses?
Two: The reality of America's obsession with morality and ironically largely in the South which has tinges of racism that is now seen on college campuses with accusation of racism and of course sexual assaults. And to think this is limited to the South need to look to Yale and Harvard for its role in racism and prejudice.
To think that a child gets to college regardless where they attend is an achievement in today's America. To get to the Ivy League and even greater one. So one would believe that they are examples of the best and brightest with all the tools and information as well as exposure to all kinds of lives, people and cultures. Apparently not. So by the time a child gets to college there should be less ignorance and oblivion on how to treat people and be open to new ideas and opportunities to learn and be exposed to things that may be new, challenging and even "threatening." But no we cannot have that. Our coddled swaddled helicoptered youth cannot have anything that "threatens" their world view. So they must oppress, protest and find a safe space to withdraw and hide from those things that scare, embarrass or anger you. They are in conflict with themselves and the very values they claim to support.
Do I think anything of lasting value will come from the current crop of student protests? No this is the new Occupy Wall Street. There will be some pandering and some type of minor resolution and then by the time the next crop of rotating student's arrive it will be back to square one or in this case zero. But t
No we won't have a building named after a racist but they are dead so why do you care so much about a dead man when you have people alive who are getting third rate education that will never even allow them to get to the same grounds you now camp on. And the same person you share a classroom with is the same person that is your adversary. How healthy is that when you cannot speak or exchange ideas even those repugnant to further understand and learn and even perhaps change hearts and minds by being a leader and a teacher. It all goes back to Teaching and the idea that we all can share that role but the constant demeaning and degrading of the Profession in the K-12 field to the post secondary one is the most informative one. We don't want to learn, we want to be protected, lead and guided by those whom we deign appropriate and anyone else is SOL. We have produced a generation of adult children. I look to the model of that prototype, Jimmy Fallon, and that is what America admires - a bland white man child. And yes he is funny but he has writers who assist with than endeavor and irony one is his sister yet we never see her front and center. This is the new America, the bland and the faux belief in color blindness and gender neutrality. That is fantasy. We need to realize that our strength comes from our differences.
It starts earlier, and when the funding of education is tied to extraneous stupid shit like teacher evaluations tied to testing, sex education tied to abstinence only, tied to how many kids are on free lunch, schools with better PTSA and private sources of money to enable the school in the same city but located in a better neighborhood to provide Teachers, equipment and field trips, you have what we thought we resolved with Brown vs the Board of Education. It appears that no, no we didn't.
So we find the front man. And unless the radical "extreme" wants to make changes that are lasting and real, get leaders who represent the America you aspire to have. I don't think there is anyone up for the challenge, frankly they are too afraid. Look to America's Teachers.. they are leaving in droves, ask yourself why?