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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Update on the Suspension of DHS Student

A few more details have become available on circumstances leading to the suspension of a Davis High School Student primarily for what was said while giving a speech on a civil rights incident that he personally experienced and spoke about at an assembly for Human Relations Week at the High School.

The teacher involved was indeed a math teacher, it was an AP Calculus class. Apparently the students had noted to her that she had hung a number of other posters including one from the girl's water polo team. The boys water polo team asked if they could could hang a poster and she said yes if it was appropriate. Then the student involved asked if he could hang a poster and she said yes. She apparently approved this one of Malcolm X. At some point she must have had second thoughts about the poster because she literally tore it down. I saw it was pulled through the tacks rather than merely having the tacks removed.

The student asked for the poster and the teacher then talked in the front of the entire class about how this was a "terrorist" message and inappropriate. In meetings concerning this incident the teacher has mostly accepted this version of events. That happened in February.

The high school's Human Relations Week happened and the student was asked to give a speech before the assembly. He gave the assembly organizers two speeches to choose from--they chose this topic. The organizers were two students who were in charge of Human Relations Week plus the administrator who approved the topic. The speech we posted a few days ago is the one he gave, which is only very slightly different from the one he submitted--and the substance was identical.

The student gave the speech and the teacher basically drew the attention to herself by leaving the assembly in tears.

Why was the student suspended? The student was basically given three reasons for the suspension. First, the claim was made that the student had deviated from the speech--that the student had essentially given an entirely different speech than the one submitted and that the student had self-censored in the submitted speech in order to engage in some sort of deception to get it approved. Having seen both speeches, I think this is a false charge. The degree of difference between both was almost non-existent and the speech read seemed innocuous. Most of the changes were innocuous and cosmetic.

Second, the student was cited for basically publicly humiliating a teacher--this despite the fact that the student never mentioned the name of the teacher and the teacher essentially outed herself through her own behavior. The teacher left the assembly in tears and did not return.

Third, the student was cited for disrupting an assembly--a charge that stemmed from the teacher bolting the assembly.

The teacher has basically told the student that the student cannot come back to class. That the teacher's reputation has been tarnished by this incident. Meanwhile the student is missing AP Calculus and is signed up to take the AP exam this spring.

Looking at the discipline code it is not clear that the punishment--even if the student were guilty of these accusations should have been a three day suspension. In my opinion, this situation could have been better handled by the administration and certainly by the teacher involved--on a number of levels. Hopefully some kind of resolution can be struck to allow the student to continue to pursue their academic goals.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting