A school in Barack Obama buddy Rahm Emanuel’s city of Chicago is accusing a teacher of “weapons violations” for showing tools to a class of second-graders for a curriculum that required a “tool discussion.”
The Rutherford Institute say it’s just too much, and they have written to Principal Valeria Newell Bryant at Washington Irving Elementary School in Chicago demanding that the case against teacher Doug Bartlett be dropped.
“While we understand your desire to maintain a safe, healthy learning environment for your students and teachers, we submit that this goal is undermined when school officials view common, useful items in the hands of qualified, responsible teachers, as ‘weapons’ rather than tools,” a letter to Bryant, signed by Rita M. Dunaway of the Rutherford Institute said today.
The civil rights law organization said the school should respond no later than the close of business Friday.
“We request that you immediately dismiss any and all disciplinary actions against Mr. Bartlett,” the letter said.
According to the institute’s report, it is another case of “zero tolerance run amok.”
Bartlett, the report said, is being charged with possessing, carrying, storing or using a weapon after he displayed such garden-variety tools as wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers in his classroom.
The “discussion” was called for by the curriculum in the school.
“Despite the fact that all potentially hazardous items were kept out of the students’ reach, school officials at Washington Irving Elementary School informed Doug Bartlett, a 17-year veteran in the classroom, that his use of the tools as visual aids endangered his students. Bartlett now faces disciplinary action and possible termination,” the institute reported.
However, Rutherford’s letter explains that such action could violate Bartlett’s 14th Amendment rights to due process.
“The charges against Doug Bartlett are absurd – a gross overreaction to a simple teaching demonstration – and underscore exactly what is wrong with zero tolerance policies in the schools,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.
“School officials should know better than to impose such draconian punishments for innocent actions,” he said. “Commonplace, basic tools such as wrenches and pliers used as part of a classroom exercise are clearly not weapons. Education truly suffers when school administrators exhibit such poor judgment and common sense.”
The organization reported Bartlett’s tools for the Aug. 8 lesson included “wrenches, screwdrivers, a box cutter, a 2.25-inch pocketknife, and pliers.”
“It is common for teachers to use such visual aids to help students retain their lessons. As he displayed the box cutter and pocketknife in particular, Bartlett specifically described the proper uses of these tools. None of the tools were made accessible to the students,” the report said.
But only days later, Bartlett was notified he was under investigation for “possessing, carrying, storing, or using a weapon” and for negligently supervising children.
He could be reprimanded or terminated.
“In an age where public schools face an unprecedented number of real challenges in maintaining student discipline, and addressing threats of real violence, surely no one benefits from trumped-up charges where no actual ‘weapons’ violation has occurred and there is no threat whatsoever posed to any member of the school community,” the institute’s letter to the school said.
“It is a fundamental tenet of due process that one may not be punished for conduct unless it was absolutely clear that the conduct was wrongful,” the letter said. “In this case, Mr. Bartlett cannot be said to have possessed ‘weapons’ at school. He merely sought to rely on a proven educational technique – the use of visual aids – to assist the students in retaining a required component of the curriculum he was charged to teach.”
School officials did not respond to a WND request for comment.