LAUSD given ultimatum in teacher case
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.
RAFE ESQUITH has been barred from his class for three months.