District Teachers Lawyer Up
While the Washington Teachers' Union has gone to court to block the District from laying off 266 teachers and staff, other D.C. educators are taking action on their own.
Among the first of what is likely to be a wave of wrongful termination suits landed in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday. It tells the story of Michael T. Green, a second-year English teacher at Dunbar High School who is asking for $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Green's first day as a DCPS employee was characteristically chaotic, according to the suit's statement of facts. Ten minutes after completing his paperwork on Aug. 28, 2008, he was in front of an English class at Dunbar. He worked hard outside the classroom as well, taking students to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Senate and House galleries. He also co-founded a "male summit group" designed to help Dunbar's young men talk to faculty about the importance of academic achievement, self-respect and personal growth
By the school year's end, Green seemed to be on his way. Even though Dunbar's staff was being overhauled last spring by its new outside operator, Friends of Bedford, Inc., he was invited to stay. A May 14 letter from DCPS' human resources office, included as an exhibit in the suit, said: "Your flexibility and commitment to all the students of the District of Columbia Public Schools is greatly appreciated. We are confident that you will continue to make a valuable contribution to the academic gains of the school and your students."
In June, Dunbar assistant principal Sharon Farmer's evaluation said that he'd "met expectations" and she "reassured him that he would be teaching at Dunbar during the 2009-2010 school year," according to the suit. Over the summer, he attended seminars at American University to improve his classroom skills.
It's not clear what exactly happened when the new academic year began on Aug. 24. The suit says that Green spent the first week co-teaching an Algebra II class with Friends of Bedford CEO George E. Leonard. After that, he was named In-School Suspension coordinator, tutoring students ejected from class for misbehavior. On Oct. 1 he helped "diffuse [sic] a situation that could have become violent and destructive" when students staged a walkout to protest the impending layoffs, the suit said.
The next day, he was fired.
After Green was informed of his dismissal by Leonard and principal Stephen Jackson, he had to "negotiate with a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer to retrieve his personal possessions before he was removed from the school. Green "felt as if he was in confinement and was being detained for an act of wrongdoing."
And while Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said in a statement Wednesday that stories of teachers being escorted from school building were "rumor," Green's suit asserts that is exactly what happened.
"Two officers were sent to escort Green from the building after his meeting. The officers were equipped with weapons and Green was in complete compliance," the suit said.
Green is alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract, intentional affliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment/arrest. He did not return a phone message left at his home number Wednesday evening.
October 7, 2009; 8:05 PM ET
Categories: Bill Turque , Education
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