LAUSD given ul­ti­ma­tum in teacher case

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Zahira Tor­res zahira.tor­res@latimes.com Twit­ter: @za­hi­ra­tor­res

At­tor­neys for a na­tion­ally rec­og­nized Los An­ge­les Uni­fied teacher, who was re­moved from his class­room af­ter al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct, have is­sued an ul­ti­ma­tum to dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tors: pub­licly apol­o­gize and let him re­turn to work, or be sued.

Rafe Esquith, a long­time ed­u­ca­tor at Ho­bart Boule­vard Ele­men­tary School who has writ­ten sev­eral books on teach­ing and re­ceived mul­ti­ple awards for his work, has not been al­lowed to re­turn to school since dis­trict of­fi­cials launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in March.

Three months later, L.A. Uni­fied of­fi­cials have not clearly out­lined the al­le­ga­tions against the pop­u­lar teacher, said his at­tor­ney, Mark Ger­a­gos. But Ger­a­gos said he learned that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion stemmed from a com­plaint by another teacher af­ter Esquith read to a class a pas­sage from “The Ad­ven­tures of Huck­le­berry Finn” by Mark Twain.

The pas­sage, which is much longer, in­cludes this sec­tion: “The duke and the king worked hard all day, set­ting up a stage and cur­tain and row of can­dles for foot­lights.... At last, when he’d built up ev­ery­one’s ex­pec­ta­tions high enough, he rolled up the cur­tain. The next minute the king came pranc­ing out on all fours, naked. He was painted in rings and stripes all over in all sorts of col­ors and looked as splen­did as a rain­bow.”

Esquith was ini­tially sent to a dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fice, which in­struc­tors re­port to af­ter they’ve been re­moved from their class­rooms over al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing. The teach­ers union has crit­i­cized these so-called teacher jails, say­ing that in­struc­tors typ­i­cally aren’t in­formed of the charges against them and that they are barred from their class­rooms for too long. Esquith is now home wait­ing for the re­sults of the dis­trict’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ger­a­gos said the dis­trict shared the in­for­ma­tion with the state, which has al­ready cleared Esquith.

“When you quote Mark Twain you go to teacher jail, your rep­u­ta­tion is tram­pled on and ig­no­rant bu­reau­crats as­sume the role of judge and jury in the face of a base­less al­le­ga­tion which has al­ready been found mer­it­less by the” Cal­i­for­nia Com­mis­sion on Teacher Cre­den­tial­ing, Ger­a­gos said. “Sadly, it is the stu­dents, their fam­i­lies and the com­mu­nity that suf­fers.”

Dis­trict of­fi­cials de­clined to pro­vide de­tails but said that “the goal is to com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore school starts in Au­gust.”

Esquith is “ex­tremely dis­tressed by the whole thing,” Ger­a­gos said. “He’s helped by the fact that there has been a del­uge of sup­port from par­ents, teach­ers and oth­ers. This is some­body who has given his whole life to teach­ing and be­ing in the class­room and has been rec­og­nized as one of the most un­be­liev­able teach­ers out there. It’s the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of ‘no good deed goes un­pun­ished.’ ”

Par­ent An­nie Han said she is not sure whether she will send her son to the Kore­atown school next year if Esquith does not re­turn.

“As a par­ent, it’s dev­as­tat­ing,” Han said. “I grew to re­spect and love him not just as a teacher of my chil­dren but as a per­son. I know so many of his fifth-graders cried ev­ery night be­cause they were grad­u­at­ing and they were go­ing to have to do that with­out him. “

Ger­a­gos gave L.A. Uni­fied 10 days to re­spond to his ul­ti­ma­tum.

The al­le­ga­tions against Esquith were first re­ported by KCBS.

Anne Cu­sack Los An­ge­les Times

RAFE ESQUITH has been barred from his class for three months.

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