City Paper is not for tourists
A top union official isn’t satisfied with Michelle Rhee‘s explanations thus far of her controversial comments to Fast Company magazine.
Yesterday, Rhee explained that when she described “teachers…who had had sex with children,” she referred to a teacher that was being investigated for sexual misconduct at the time of the layoffs. But George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, says that, from what he knows about the case, misconduct charges were “alleged but not substantiated.”
The disposition of the “sex with children” charge threatens to prolong the controversy over Rhee’s comments. After all, teachers and politicos are already upset that Rhee painted 266 laid-off teachers with a broad brush that included unspecified child sex charges—-what if those charges came to naught?
In an interview yesterday, Rhee declined to discuss the case beyond what she’d acknowledged in her letters. Parker, also, declined to discuss details. D.C. police have not confirmed any investigation, and the U.S. attorney’s office yesterday evening was not able to confirm the existence of any sexual misconduct case against a DCPS teacher.
Attorney General Peter Nickles—-who, based on past practice, has no doubt played a role in the lack of response—-responds to Parker’s claim simply: “That is not true. I won’t have any further comment.”
Parker says he was not aware of the teacher until Rhee made her comments last week. The teacher’s field representative had been made aware of the investigation last year, but the union, Parker says, was never officially notified of any disciplinary action, as is usual practice.
How to move forward in the absence of any explanation?
Parker holds to a simple solution to the comments mess—-“to reinstate all of the RIF’d teachers,” he says. That probably isn’t going to happen—-particularly in light of a Superior Court judge’s preliminary ruling upholding the basis for the layoffs.
Outside of blanket reinstatements, Parker counsels that the chancellor watch her mouth: “When we talk about moving forward, there needs to be a change in how the chancellor talks about teachers in general. The test scores are going up, but the respect for teachers has not increased….The chancellor needs to be the champion for DCPS teachers when she speaks in public. We haven’t seen that.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery