Wednesday, December 9, 2015

One Coin Two Sides

 As I tell students we are all coins with two sides that can flip on a dime. Now I have no idea the truth regarding this but having seen the most recent "investigation" of a Choir Teacher here for simply poor chaperoning, I can assure you that when they have an agenda the reality is akin to the criminal justice system - guilt by proxy.

I have to think that when you are in the business of non profit and government combined it is a double whammy for the politics. I have worked in retail and in the private sector and owned my own business.  And only the retail sector is as appalling, the low wages, the bitchery and the sheer competitiveness for a dollar lends itself to a crappy workplace.  I have temp'd in many businesses and the other high factor of bitchiness - architecture.

Education is appalling for many reasons. Largely a female workforce. The men are few and far between and the few that are are either Math/Science teachers a notorious subset of geeks, those in the Humanities are not gay ironically as many believe, I just think they are a reader geek set.  They are actually better teachers in that field as having reader geeks are interesting role models for kids as opposed to the sports coach/history teacher.  I have had art teachers and theatre teacher and they were all male and all gay. That is the the norm and then there are the exceptions.

I have written about this Teacher before as frankly this is another he/they said. There have never been any criminal charges filed, he has been in the district for year as a quite a public figure. There are interesting quotes and only two or three from children with memories over 30 years ago which again I find odd for many reasons.

There seems to be a Teacher accusation, an observation and yet no parental concerns or complaints.

Theatre is flamboyance. This is not uncommon. There are always field trips and of course the issues that surround them led to a local choir Teacher here being dismissed for numerous reasons and yet the students did not complain only through second hand gossip was the issue then discovered.  A history of problems on field trips in the past but again if this was an issue why was she allowed to continue to do them? Why were the Teachers who chaperoned a field trip where a rape occurred allowed to keep their jobs? See there are never direct answers when it comes to Teachers and investigations over allegations.

Another Teacher was alleged to have "leant in" to a student and she could feel his penis. When shown where it occurred there was a high back chair that unless that man had a steel shaft in his dick there was no possible way she felt anything.  That said he simply transferred schools. By the way her allegations came 8 years after the incident and her supporting witness refused to testify when contacted in the present day.

So we have always a lot of versions of stories, the "emails" (which I find amusing and yes his language is flamboyant but its THEATER!! DARLING). I call kids sweet peas, poodles and my darlings and they laugh and go what.. I go my dears I am EUROPEAN descent! They laugh. If they are upset they tell me and I call them sir or madam.  So much ado about nothing as Shakespeare went.

So one coin two sides. Teachers, particularly popular ones are always targeted. They draw attention both negative and positive and they are resented by kids who don't get the special attention, by Teachers angry that they are the "pet" and of course parents who are well parents.  Teachers are largely like children only nastier and more vindictive.

So on this note we have this story from the Washington Post and his belief that this is a witch hunt.

Even with details of allegations against L.A. teacher, it’s still a witch hunt

The Washington Post
 Jay Mathews
 December 9 at 3:31 PM

 Information released to the Los Angeles Times under the California Public Records Act contains allegations that award-winning fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith made sexual references to students and spanked some of them, partly the results of the work by a Los Angeles Unified School District hit squad formed to investigate hundreds of teachers.

I have long considered this a witch-hunt. I know Esquith well, have been in his classes, full of low-income Hispanic and Korean students, and have written much about him. I can imagine his sense of humor leading him to make inappropriate comments, but none of the allegations by the district’s Student Safety Investigation Team have been corroborated by independent investigators. He has not yet had an opportunity to depose his accusers under a lawsuit he has filed against the district for suspending him in April and firing him in October.

He has been charged with no crime. The only known molestation complaint against him alleges an incident when he was a 19-year-old day camp counselor more than 40 years ago.

In a letter to the school district before the documents were released, Escalante’s attorney, Mark Geragos, told me: “This is LAUSD’s latest effort to smear.”

I have been gathering material on the nature of the district’s investigative group, called the Tiger Team, which was formed in January 2014 after district officials were traumatized by revelations of teachers molesting students that had gone undetected. The idea was to make sure the slightest complaint was addressed immediately with a massive investigative effort. Many teachers have complained of being suspended for silly reasons — like a colleague thinking a student project was dangerous — and then being allowed to return to their classrooms with their reputations damaged. Geragos’ firm is pursuing a class action lawsuit on their behalf.

The Esquith case began with a similarly trivial incident. Esquith told a joke to his class that suggested the students might all have to perform their latest Shakespeare play naked, like a charter in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” if he was not able to raise enough money for the production. A report on his remarks from a teacher who was present, Barbara Hayden, was referred to a state agency that declared Esquith had broken no rules. But the Tiger Team went after him anyway, even after Hayden told Esquith she wanted him back in the classroom.

The Los Angeles Times has done good work on this story. Read Zahira Torres’s report. But I am obliged to give you some of the details, particularly since I am so close to Esquith and so convinced he has been mistreated. I think any of us could be made to look bad if an 18-person team were given access to our office computers and set free to ask anyone anything they wanted to know about us, with no chance to investigate those accounts independently.

With that in mind, here are the more damning accusations against Esquith:

●The documents say Hayden said Esquith told a student who had completed his work that he could “surf the net for porn. That’s what we do in our spare time.” Esquith pointed to Hayden as he spoke and said he was joking. She also told administrators that Esquith told a student in the play that “if the audience doesn’t like his performance, he can perform while nude, or at least wear a fig leaf. And from what I’ve heard, it would be a small fig leaf.”

●The Tiger Team report claims that Esquith fondled two boys and a girl in the 1970s. One of the boys, whose account has been reported previously, said he was touched several times when he was 9 years old. He said Esquith babysitted him and sexually fondled him. L.A. police apparently received a letter from the alleged victim a decade ago but apparently did not follow up, given the length of time that had passed.

●One of Esquith’s students during the 1990s is said to have reported that he pulled her onto his lap and touched her on the buttocks, causing her to jump away from him. She allegedly said she saw him place female students across his lap and spank them. Jay Gowan, a former fourth-grade teacher at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School where Esquith worked, is said to have told investigators he saw Esquith tickle a female student and on another occasion point to a student and say she “loved green M&M’s” and made an inappropriate sexual reference.

●One student is reported saying Esquith grabbed his neck and slammed him against a wall after learning he kicked another student during the 2011 to 2012 school year. In a meeting with the school principals, the documents said, Esquith denied touching the student.

●Email exchanges, apparently taken from Esquith’s computer, are quoted, including a statement to one of the former students he was helping pay private school tuition: “You are a Goddess.” The student responded: “That’s so weird.” Esquith responded: “Not weird at all. You know many things and are a fabulous student. But you do not understand men and their wants and desires. You are their dream come true.”

●The email excerpts include other allegations that Esquith commented on female students’ appearances. “Beautiful. Elegant. Dazzling. Sexy,” said one. Another said “you teach the torches to burn bright.” Esquith, 61, is married. His wife Barbara Tong is often at the school helping put together the annual Shakespeare performances. She accompanies him on student trips to other states and abroad.

●The documents allege he failed to provide appropriate supervision during those trips. They said he conducted Saturday classes at Hobart and charged $100 a month for students, which he said would be used to help pay expenses on student trips.

Eventually court proceedings will sort out these charges. I expect Esquith to resume teaching elsewhere, and to add new works to his four popular books. Hopefully we will learn more then about how these investigations affected the many other teachers that were targeted, and what this has done to the reputation of a school district turning over the lives of any teacher it wants to, on the slightest excuse.

And then we have this assesment from Slate

America’s Most Decorated Teacher Allegedly Called a Student His “Favorite Hottie”—and It Gets Much Worse

Yikes. Rafe Esquith—perhaps the most decorated elementary-school teacher in the country, the only K-12 educator ever to receive the National Medal of the Arts—has been accused of sexual misconduct in shocking documents released Tuesday by Los Angeles Unified School District.
Until he was removed from the classroom this spring, Esquith, 61, had taught fifth grade at Hobart Elementary School, a high-poverty school in Los Angeles with an overwhelming percentage of English-language learners, for more than 30 years. Esquith’s “Hobart Shakespeareans” nonprofit, which puts on a Shakespeare production every year in his classroom, became world-renowned, the subject of a PBS documentary, and a resplendent example of the miracles that committed public educators can work even in challenging school environments. When he wasn’t transforming young lives, Esquith was writing inspirational books and accepting lots of awards: In addition to the National Medal of the Arts, his prizes include Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award, Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award, and even Dalai Lama’s Compassion in Action Award.

And now for the it-was-all-too-good-to-be-true part: According to the Los Angeles Times, this spring, one teacher reported that Esquith had made an inappropriate joke about Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, saying that if he couldn’t raise enough cash to fund the annual production, the class would have to perform naked.

 Then there wasan incident from March 2015 in which Esquith told a student who had completed his work that he could “surf the net for porn. That’s what we do in our spare time.”… Esquith told a student who would appear in an upcoming play that “if the audience doesn’t like his performance, he can perform while nude, or at least wear a fig leaf. And, from what I’ve heard, it would be a small fig leaf.”
These claims kicked off Los Angeles Unified’s investigation into Esquith, who was removed from the classroom pending its findings. In October, he was fired, a move greeted with outrage all over the country. In the Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews, who had named Esquith “America’s Best Classroom Teacher” in 2007, wrote that:*
He has been dismissed for murky reasons that appear to be part of a witch hunt against hundreds of other L.A. educators … the result of L.A. school leaders losing touch with reality after being traumatized by a molestation scandal a few years ago.
But now, with the 66-page document dump, those reasons no longer seem so murky.
While Esquith has not been charged with a crime (though the documents do allege that, even before he became a teacher, Esquith fondled several children in the 1970s), he comes across as a desperate, preening, pathetic predator: the last person you want near your kids. He’s accused of spanking, fondling, and tickling female students; making grossly inappropriate comments (saying, for example, that one student “loved green M&M’s because they made her horny”); and screening movies with sexually inappropriate content to fifth-graders after school.
And then there were the emails. Lots and lots of legitimately grotesque emails, addressed to students who were at most 14 years old, that lay bare the consummate creepiness: He addressed one student as “Supermodel” and signed off to another as “Your Favorite ATM.” The Wednesday Washington Post story about the allegations uses one of his lines as its headline: “How is my favorite Hottie?” And this, from the Los Angeles Times:
In one 2013 email, Esquith praised a former student, who was 14 years old, saying she was “Beautiful. Elegant. Dazzling. Sexy. Gorgeous.” And in the same conversation writes “don’t argue, hottie.” He later writes to her, “you’re soooooooooooooooo fine.”
The conversations include one in which the girl thanks him for giving her lunch money and “for the hundreds and hundreds” he’s given her. 
Captain Inappropriate wrote another girl, “You will do WELL wherever you go because you’re great, but I want you to be happy and have lots of guys and beer and drugs and all the things that make high school great!”

Before the documents became public, Esquith’s lawyer accused the school district of constructing a “fraudulent narrative” as part of its “latest effort to smear.” In October, Esquith filed a $1 billion class-action lawsuit on behalf of approximately 2,000 LAUSD teachers who were removed from the classroom for no clear reason—part of an age-discrimination scheme, the suit alleged, to place pressure on teachers approaching retirement age to resign without the full pension and benefits they’d earned. We’ll see how that one works out.

This could be a witch hunt.  Then we have a the Cosby effect. If we have learned anything that not all things are those in which they appear.  There are clearly idiotic remarks and he is flamboyant no doubt and yes I have said idiotic things to kids, they to me and they can be misconstrued when heard out of context and awareness of the relationship.  But again if this was a problem it would be noted earlier on and when in those cases it was why was nothing done then? What do you hit a peak then finally enough is enough?

This is a case for the courts and all the witnesses need to come forward willing to substantiate their allegations and in turn those who support this man need to be prepared to do so.  This is all ugly and all sad and really is there a point?

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