From the Just When You Thought You'd Heard Everything Department comes the following:
Yesterday's Los Angeles Times ran an A.P. story about the strange goings-on at the East Lynne District School in Cass County Missouri. Seems that seven of ten classroom teachers in the tiny district resigned after a colleague was fired for helping an 11-year-old girl who was left alone in a playground to pick up rocks as a punishment.
According to the article, the fourth-grader was assigned the task last September for refusing to do her homework. Furthermore, she was left unsupervised except for a security camera.
The fired teacher, Christa Price, went to the principal -- who is also the district superintendent -- and asked him to reconsider the punishment. The principal/superintendent, one Dan Doerhoff, refused. So, on her free period, Ms. Price helped the girl pick up the rocks.
At contract time in March, Superintendent Doerhoff recommended firing Ms. Price, described as "a popular teacher who had good performance evaluations." In a show of solidarity, seven other teachers chose not to return their contracts.
"If a teacher who advocates on behalf of safety of a student is not fit to be a teacher at East Lynne or anywhere in Missouri according to this administration, then none of us are fit to teach at East Lynne," the teachers who resigned said in a statement.
The girl's parents said they had agreed to the rock-gathering punishment, which was the only alternative Superintendent Doerhoff gave them to suspension. To add insult to injury, Doerhoff refused to sign the certification that Ms. Price needs to get another teaching job. To read the entire A.P./Times story go to Teachers Quit Over Punishment.
Concerned parents gathered at an open meeting of the Cass County School Board to voice their concerns about the seven teachers and direct anger toward Doerhoff. "When as many teachers are leaving as there are, it should raise a red flag," one parent said. When the assembled demanded to know if Price's non-renewal and Doerhoff's refusal to re-certify her had anything to do with the popular teacher's complaints about the 4th grade girl's "rock picking-up" punishment, Doerhoff said the reasons were personnel matters that could not be revealed in an open meeting.
“Those are things legal constraints prevent us from revealing,” he said.
In a separate but no less maddening development, Principal Doerhoff kicked a boy off school computers for the rest of the year after he was accused of of accessing pornography on-line. According to a report filed by KMBC, the 13-year old student pulled up the website Whitehouse.org in class. The site, which parodies the official White House Web Site is far from pornographic. What it is, is blatantly parodic, incredibly cheeky, and a lot of fun. When confronted, the student said he was researching the White House for a school project and that his teacher had actually suggested the Web site herself.
"We don't condone it. We don't like it and we discipline it," Dr. Doerhoff said. "The information we had to act on was very certain, very definite and necessary. And the action we took was imperative."
For those wondering if the site the youngster pulled up is pornographic, check for yourselves: go to WhiteHouse.Org and then compare it to the site it so wonderfully lampoons, Welcome to the White House. (By the way, I heartily recommend visiting WhiteHouse.Org as often as possible; its a heck of a site.)
Tell me I'm wrong, but I thought the year was 2005, not 1845, and that this was the United States of America, not Victorian England. The more I read about Dr. Doerhoff, the more I am reminded of Charles Dickens' noxious character in Nicholas Nickleby, Wackford Squeers.
Squeers, as all good Dickens fans will recall, was the pompous, slightly demented headmaster, teacher and proprietor of Dotheboys Hall, an institution that took in boys who were not wanted by their families. Squeers' modus operandi involved meting out arbitrary punishments for sins both unreal and perceived. Dickens has young Nickleby come to Dotheboys Hall so that he may, in short order: become Squeers' assistant master, see the way he treats his charges, and in his utter disgust, give the older man a sound and thorough thrashing. Readers will recall that Squeers, who sought revenge and conspired with Nicholas' rich, miserly Uncle Ralph, was eventually undone, imprisoned and transported far away from the Yorkshire Moors.
While I am certainly not advocating that anyone give to Dr. Doerhoff a sound thrashing [it's the pacifist in me], I do hope and pray that he will be hounded from his job. How can anyone in this day and age treat children, teachers and parents in such an odious, outrageous manner. Picking up rocks? Losing one's livelihood for being a student advocate? Curtailing a student's ability to learn and inquire because you don't agree with the politics of a particular web site? Dr. Doerhoff, I am sorry to say, is a blot on the educational escutcheon.
For anyone who would like to contact him, Dr. Dan Doerhoff can be reached by phone at 816-626-3511 or, by email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you call, don't be surprised if the message on his machine has the following refrain:
School day, school days
dear old golden rule days
Reading and writing and 'rithmatic
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick . . .