By Brett Gillin
Putting up with an inordinate amount of abuse is, unfortunately, often par for the course in the daily lives of teachers. Dealing with unruly students, unsupportive parents, and an administration that all too often seems to want to cover their own backs rather than defend their teachers is an all too common occurrence in schools today. But what happens when a teacher decides to stand up and refuse to back down in the face of this abuse? At least sometimes, something great happens.
Jay Mathews, a columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote a column about a teacher who had enough abuse from a parent and too little support from her administration. Mathews spoke with a now-retired California school teacher named Linda Johnson, who decided that she needed to escalate things when she was punished for sticking up for herself.
The incident occurred when Johnson was walking her class to the nearby computer lab. One of the students began acting up, yelling and jumping around, so Johnson told the student he had to go back to the classroom with the student-teacher and would not be able to go to the computer lab. When the student’s father came to check his son out of school a short time later for a dentist appointment, he saw his son crying and decided to confront Johnson.
“When he saw the boy crying, he went ballistic and came running after me. He cornered me at the entrance to the computer room and screamed at me in a menacing way in front of my students. He waved his arms at me in a threatening way,” Johnson explained. “I was very frightened for my students and was careful not to provoke him further.”
When school let out for the day, Johnson went to the principal’s office to report what had happened, only to find the father reporting her to the vice principal. Later, the principal and vice principal informed Johnson that they would be putting a letter in her file, complaining that she had screamed at the man, despite Johnson explaining exactly what had happened.
Johnson was infuriated, telling the administration that she was the victim in this situation. She then told the principal that if he wasn’t going to do anything about the situation, that she was going to take it to the police. That’s exactly what she did, filing a report with the local police department accusing the father of “disturbing school,” a misdemeanor offense.
Johnson then also sent a letter of complaint about the way she was treated by the father and the school administration to the superintendent, the teachers union president, the principal, the vice principal, and every member of the school board. In the letter, Johnson asked for a written apology within 30 days. As it turned out, the father was a convicted felon, and although the case was eventually dismissed since the student teacher did not appear for the court date, the student was transferred from the school and the father was banned from district property. Johnson also received her letters of apology from the school administrators.