Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Teacher Suspended Over Book

Teacher Suspended Over Book

Perry Township, IN teacher Connie Heermann was suspended for allowing her high school students to read FREEDOM WRITERS DIARY. The book is a collection of essays from high school students who give candid looks at their lives, fears and hopes. It deals with violence, homelessness, racism, abuse and other topics that this group of urban California students lived with.

The school board had originally taken a motion to severe her contract with the school, but later changed it to an unpaid suspension until the end of the 2008 -2009 school year. Heermann, who has taught for 27-years, was charged with insubordination. Her supervisor was unhappy with the language and content in the book and asked her to stop using it in the classroom, even though her students had signed permission slips.

At an earlier public hearing, Heermann had many supporters, including Californian Erin Gruwell who's students wrote the FREEDOM WRITERS DIARY.

For a teacher to punished for encouraging her students to read about real-life issues is a scary thought. What we at AF IF! would like to know is, was it really insubordination at issue or the book itself?

For more information, check out these links:


Blogger Speaking Up said...

I live in Burke County, NC, where a community member and a school board member are trying to ban THE KITE RUNNER. They don't think it's appropriate for a tenth grade honors class. One man even wrote in the local newspaper that they should put the teacher in jail for assigning the book. Ridiculous!

10:26 AM  
Blogger Lisa Yee said...

I just read some of the articles about Burke County and THE KITE RUNNER. It's interesting that one of the objectors to the book cited that students minds were "formulating" and they should not read such material.

I read the book and it did not glorify sex or violence, but rather showed the consequences of rape and its aftermath. If anything, it's a cautionary tale. But then, my mind is already formulated.

Thanks for letting us know about what's going on in your area.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"sever" her relationship, not "severe" C'mon folks - hire an English spelling specialist proof-reader.
G Hebben, Plainwell MI

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is crazy. As a teacher, she is inspiring students to read, become involved in the learning process, express themselves, and dare to enjoy school. Good for her. Shame on the school board. American kids are lagging behind in the world on education as is. Where do these school board people come from? The issue is not the book, but her strong desire to teach, and not wait on a decision to be made. If the parents were ok with the book, then the board should be also. The old books, such as Hamlet, etc. will be interesting after an interest in reading is developed. They should change their ruling and let her TEACH.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Jon Fisher said...

Sheltering students from a few bad words and real life situations does not prepare them for the future. I laud this teacher's committment and conviction. If we allow small minded politics to dictate what student's have access to then we are censoring in the very worst way. I teach first grade and my students have heard language worse than what's in that book. It is so sad to see factions of the Christian Taliban popping up all over this country.

6:15 PM  
Blogger GOA said...

I went to a Catholic school back in the 1980's. We read a few books on racism and a few that had some racey scenes. What do student **live through* these days that my generation did not? They see sex, blood and violence on TV not just at night, but all day long--and they see it all without anyone helping them learn how to think critically about what they see. So the teens are going down the tubes. It sounds to me this teacher was trying to teach critical thinking skills--how to think critically about hard stuff, because once they leave school, many will never have another opportunity to receive such important guidance for as long as they live. This is not about the nature of the book--it's about denying Americans a chance to think critically, and God forbid, to think for themselves.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, the teacher was suspended for insubordination. She knew this book was not allowed in the classroom yet she did it anyway. If you disagree with laws or rules, then work to get them changed. If you disregard them, then you suffer the consequences, deservedly so. We do not get to pick and choose which laws we want to obey. This is not an intellectual freedom issue.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read about this story on yahoo news. Months after this. Just wanted to reply to the one claiming this was insubordination and how we can't just pick and choose the laws we want.

You sound pretty high and noble and using the languages of the school boards officials. Officials who are too cowardly to admit that they're really fearing for their own jobs than the well beings of the students.

Permission slips were already signed and the parents knew what their children will be reading. The book has suggestive themes.

But doesn't Shakespeare have the same themes? Ever read Titus Andronicus? It's worse than Silence of the Lambs. Yet because it's Shakespeare and people don't understand what he's saying, it's allowed.

Look, rules need to be examined and they are created by people. And it can be changed by people. Didn't we as a species laud the Germans for blindly following the Nazis? Yet we praised the Germans who defied the laws and saved the Jews for doing what is right.

The teacher was doing the right thing by having her students seriously engage the world they are growing up with. They are thinking about the violence and the sexual undertones and questioning why.

I think that is more important than these bias rules by corrupted board members who worried more about their own jobs. They need to be fired not this teacher.

7:21 PM  
Blogger mercedes said...

At my child's school, students were forced to read Prince of Tides in the which a young boy is raped and it is so graphic that it is disturbing. I do have a problem with this. The kids in this class are from the age of 14-18. Many have little knowledge of or exposure to sex. How sad that this violent incestuous scene be their first. There are many more graphic scenes in this book. The scenes and language used will leave a lasting disturbing image in the minds of these children that will not go away.
The teachers here use the book so that they can talk about very taboo sexual things with children under the guise of education. The teacher at our school I know for a fact has said some very inappropriate things to his students...but he's wise as a fox and no one can touch him on it. Allowing any book to be read in school is a perfect way for pedophiles and perverts to rape the minds of children and bring up topics that make the children very uncomfortable. Wake up people! Children should not be exposed to EVERY aspect of "real life" at such a tender age. They have a lifetime to experience things. Some books are just not age appropriate nor are they school appropriate.
Believe me, I know a lot about pedophiles and I know their tools and this is one. If you don't think that pedophiles are everywhere in our schools, do a search.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The teacher failed to follow the rules set by her superiors. She should be punished for not following the rules.

If she or the parents wish to fight the decision, then they should fight in the proper way.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mercedes --

The "children" are 14-18??? They haven't been exposed to sex before? What planet are you living on?

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is incredulous that anyone would think, in this day and age, that teenagers do not have exposure to sex, or to the very real life subjects covered in THE FREEDOM WRITERS. To believe such is denying reality.

I applaud the teacher for having the fortitude to teach her students the art of critical thinking; by doing so, she is resurrecting the dying art of common sense.

Sheltering children from real life is not the answer; this world is far too complex to promote self serving ignorance under the guise "they have a lifetime". If they are not given the tools to deal with adult situations until they are adults, then they become vulnerable as adults.

This has nothing to do with forcing sex and other adult situations down the throats of teenagers; but instead to help them learn how to appropriately handle such situations when they arise.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit I haven't read this book as of yet, but certainly plan to do so now. So that if one of my child's teachers assign it that I can make an informed decision on whether or not I feel that it's age appropriate reading material for MY child.

Seeing as how the school had the book in the library I doubt that if I were one of the parents I would have had a problem with the book. Since the school board doesn't feel that the children should be reading this book I find it a bit hypercritical that they have it in their school library. The parents were alright with it and it got the kids reading and interested is that not what teachers are suppost to do?

Now to address the comment on children being sheltered in this day and age about sex. Well believe it or not I have a child that will be turning 14 in aprox. 2 months and has very limited knowledge of sex and wish to keep it that way. No I am not naive and know it wont last forever, but it is that way now, and yes for all of you doubters out there it is true and I do live on planet earth. As I said believe it or not it is still possible to raise a wholesome child in this day and time.

9:53 PM  
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12:26 AM  
Blogger Amira said...

I believe the teacher was suspended not because of insubordination, but because of the book itself. The parents of the students signed permission slips. The parents or legal guardians of the children being affected get to choose what their children read. It is not up to the school board AT ALL.

4:45 PM  

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