Monday, January 31, 2005


God bless Lincoln County District Judge John Murphy. He reinstated a North Platte kindergarten teacher to her job last week, with back pay and benefits, and quoted Alice in Wonderland and one of its characters, Tweedledee, in describing the school district’s attempt to fire her.

According to the online publications
www.northplattebulletin.com and www.StatePaper.com, Judge Murphy ruled that the North Platte district failed to follow its own disciplinary procedures and “acted arbitrarily” in the firing of seven-year teacher Cynthia Stevens.

Among the evidence presented against her: the principal at Jefferson Elementary school testified that she overheard the teacher tell one pupil, “Quit your whining!” and warned another, “You have automatically lost your snack.”

Among other points made in the teacher’s defense, it was brought out that last year, parents were up in arms at another grade school in that district, Osgood Elementary. It seems the third-grade teacher taught second-grade material all year, having made the switch from second to third herself. The kids’ math test scores on the Iowa Basics fell from the 80th percentile to the 57th percentile and they require special tutoring for a year or two to catch up, yet that teacher, Arliss Hraban, didn’t lose her job.

Regarding Mrs. Stevens’ firing, the North Platte district follows the pinnacle of Political Correctness when it comes to school discipline, the Boys Town behavior code. It may make sense for delinquents and runaways to require that a teacher make four “praise statements” for every correction, but it borders on the absurd in a kindergarten setting in a middle-income small Nebraska town. The district contended that Mrs. Stevens failed to keep to the required 4:1 ratio in praises and corrections to the kindergartners in her charge.

Judge Murphy wrote that, “with the apparent import of exact praise to criticism ratios, it is clear that the Court’s view that education is the instilling of knowledge and skill is hopelessly anachronistic.”

The district also claimed that it was up to the teacher to get her own “mentor” to help her improve and stave off her firing, even though the district’s own policy is that the district is supposed to assign that help.

The whole debacle took up a school board hearing last June 2 and 3 lasting from 4 p.m. to 3:46 a.m. Parents were reportedly overwhelmingly in favor of the teacher, but had to leave as the hearing dragged on so long.

The judge wrote that the whole scenario reminded him of what Tweedledee said: “’Contrariwise if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be: but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’”

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