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You’re Fired!—Easy for Trump to Say, Hard for District Leaders

From Guest Blogger Liana Heitin

In this climate of rampant layoffs, most people are concentrated on finding ways to keep teachers in the classroom. Yet (and it seems hardly controversial to point out) not all teachers should stay. The St. Petersburg Times reports that when budget cuts are not an issue, firing a teacher can be more than a little difficult.

Ron Matus of The Times tells the story of Roy Sachse, a tenured P.E. teacher in Florida with a history of inappropriate behavior. In one 18-month period, Sachse reportedly sent a note to a female student asking her to meet him behind a dumpster, was accused of cussing out a co-worker, was arrested on charges of stealing a sandwich, and was overheard threatening to pull down a girl’s pants. Of the 20 counts of misconduct against Sachse throughout his career, 11 were deemed substantiated.

Sachse still holds his job. And the most punitive action taken against him in his 22 years of teaching was a one-day suspension two years ago. (The entire article is worth a read, if for no other reason than shock-factor.)

While few people will defend such conduct, teachers reading this may be thinking of a co-worker who was punished or fired for a far more trivial transgression—or perhaps one that was wholly unsubstantiated. See this story on Julie Amero, the substitute teacher who lost her teaching license for exposing students to pornographic images when her computer was bombarded by pop-up ads.

But which case is happening more frequently—bad teachers getting by or good teachers being unfairly penalized? D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and others looking to change tenure policies seem to think the former.

What do you think? Are teachers given more leeway than employees of other professions? Have tenure laws moved from shielding teachers against biased school boards and parents to protecting teachers indiscriminately? Is it necessary to protect teachers like Sachse to make sure teacher safeguards remain in place?

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