Below is a story from a courageous teacher punished for helping a suicidal child - a story sure to ignite change or end the façade that this country cares about its children. A system that treats its students and teachers with this much disdain has the outcome we should all expect – dismal! And for those of you thinking that management MUST maintain parameters for legal or other reasons such as in the following thinking: if they let this teacher help a suicidal child in the way she did all will be expected to provide the same service, consider this. Why didn’t they sit her down and explain a legal or “business” reason why the school could not be part of this intervention and give her a big hug for caring so much? Why didn’t they tell her that they loved her big heart, but it would cause such and such to happen? Why did they proceed to go after her like she was a terrorist in their midst? The answer is when White Chalk Crime is your agenda, goodness is your enemy. When these White Chalk Criminals rein in teachers with their “business need for control” excuses, you must learn to look beneath the surface and judge them by how they treat these caring, and essentially powerless teachers.
We are not saying that teachers do not make mistakes. Maybe there is a legal reason she should not have accompanied this child to the therapist and maybe she should have turned her back on this child whose trust for her was her only lifeline. (One would think there could be a compromise if the people involved actually care about the children. What we are saying is that if helping a vulnerable child causes those running our schools to disrespect the teacher and want to ruthlessly push her out of her job and blacklist her so she can never teach again, there is something grossly wrong with those running our schools! When you see bullying happening, something is very wrong. Only the public can save these children and only if they take the time to learn about White Chalk Crime. NAPTA
Unstoppable Teacher Champion
NAPTA Member Sallie Montanye poured her heart and soul into a book to which any abused teacher could relate. Serious Repercussions describes in detail what it is like to be a dedicated teacher within an institution dedicated only to White Chalk Crime. Even a suicidal child is fodder for politics when those running our schools make their greedy needs their primary objectives. This book demonstrates what dedicating teaching looks like - being there for the students above all. Any teacher considering suing her district needs to read this first!Serious Repercussions: Sallie Montanye: 9781499117554: Amazon.com: Books
The EducRAT$’ Way to Deal with Suicidal Students: Pretend You Don’t Know!
This takes place in a school district outside of Philadelphia. In eighth grade [2000-2001] Pat was the target of bullies. Her parents wrote letters, made phone calls and attended meetings in attempts to secure protection. The middle school administration refused to take any action. The parents were told the “school had 1200 other kids to worry about.” Although Pat was Special Ed [itinerant support] there was no effort made by the Child Study Team, the Spec Ed department, the IEP team guidance. Pat was threatened through cyber – hate mail, she was harassed in the hallways, malicious rumors were spread about her personal life, and she was physically attacked. The final altercation sent her to the ER.
Her parents met in the spring, with the
The parents were forced to take Pat out of school. She was diagnosed by a psychiatrist, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Pat was put on homebound placement. She received nothing more than 3 - 4 hours a week of education. She received no support services as per the Cordero provision.
- the assistant superintendent,
- the supervisor of Spec Ed,
- the middle school principal; these people offered no solution.
In the summer Pat tried to slit her throat. She was committed to a mental health facility for observation. Her second psychiatric diagnosis was severe depression and suicidal ideation.
In the fall of 2001 Pat returned to school [9th grade high school]. There were no plans in place to help her. The high school WIN team [state designed program to assist with suicidal children] met with the parents once in September of 2001. The bullies continued to hound Pat. She was absent a great deal or late so she could avoid her problems. Although her guidance counselor knew about the suicide attempt, no information was provided at the IEP meeting in the fall. Nothing indicated the problems of the preceding year or the ones she was experiencing at the time.
Pat was in my Social Studies and English classes. I was an Emotional Support teacher, who taught children who were not able to perform well in regular ed classes. Pat could not function due to chronic absences and her emotional state. In October 2001 she began to confide in me. Her mother also spoke with me on a daily basis. Her mother was terrified of another suicide attempt. Pat told me she wanted to die. I suggested she speak with her guidance counselor. She refused. We continued to talk when she wanted to do so.
In January 2002 I found a note Pat had written to a friend stating she wanted to kill herself. [I knew Pat was socializing with her older brother and his friends. I was aware there was drinking and drug use in this crowd. Many teen suicides occur under the influence of drugs/alcohol. Pat was an excellent candidate for this.]
I took the note to the principal who copied it and gave it to the nurse and a guidance counselor who were both members of the WIN team.
I told Pat she had to see someone who could help her. She agreed she would, but she refused to see her former therapist. I gave her the name of a therapist who was highly regarded by the counselors in the school district. Pat’s mother agreed she should see this woman. Pat said she would not go unless I went with her a few times. She was afraid the therapist would dismiss her or her mother the way the school had. Pat’s mother said I could go with her. [Pat was 14 years old. The mental health laws in PA state that a child of 14 years or older is in charge of her mental health program. The child is the only one who can grant permission for the release of the records and the only one who can grant permission for anyone to attend therapy sessions.]
I accompanied Pat twice to therapy. This was done on my own time. Pat had gone home on both occasions before she went to the therapist’s office. As an Emotional Support teacher I was in contact with many therapists - sometimes on a weekly basis. Interacting with therapists was part of my job.
The WIN team wrote a letter stating I was unprofessional and showed poor judgment by helping Pat. This letter was sent directly to the assistant superintendent. [The assistant principal on the WIN team suggested the principal be bypassed.] When the union president learned of this letter he told me to stop speaking with my students.
The superintendent hired an outside attorney to conduct a pre-termination hearing due to my offenses in relation to Pat. I was accused of willful neglect of duty, insubordination, incompetency, persistent negligence in the performance of duties, willful violation of school laws, and improper conduct growing out of the following: improperly involving yourself in situations pertaining to student K.T.
When the “exhibits” were gathered at the hearing, the district suppressed a letter from the mother on my behalf. The principal had given this letter to the head of personnel a week before the meeting. The attorney for the district was in possession of this document. The day of the hearing the assistant superintendent told the principal not to present the letter. The attorney for the district claimed the mother was considering suing the district. Her letter refuted this. After the hearing the district’s attorney said he “couldn’t get [me] on anything…”
The Director of Special Education [the district’s expert] was not involved in the hearing. He was not informed of the district’s actions or why they were going after me. He was fired the next year.
The supervisor of Spec Ed told the principal [before the hearing] that I had not broken any law or committed any infraction. She did attend the meeting but said nothing. She still works in the district.
A day after my hearing the principal was told he had three months to get another job. He was told that he should have written me up for “insubordination.” When he pointed out I had not been insubordinate, the superintendent said he “should have written me up anyway.” This man was blackballed and could not get hired in the state.
A week after the hearing [6/3/02] I was sent a directive from the superintendent which said in part:
“Re: Notice of Directives – Maintaining a Proper Relationship With Students.
Dear Mrs. Montanye:
This letter follows the conference during which you responded to the allegations against you… we will not impose “discipline,” but as stated to you, your conduct was inappropriate…Your acts and omissions constituted significant wrongdoing and you are directed not to engage in such acts or omissions again…
…you admitted that you …sat in and observed and heard each of the first two sessions between the student and the therapist…. None of those activities are related to the expectations for your position, none are required by the student’s IEP, and none are required by law. In short, those activities were not part of your job as a teacher and your actions to engage in those activities illustrates [sic] that you did not demonstrate a sufficient appreciation of where to draw the line between your proper duties and acts that are not appropriate.
Because you have not demonstrated a sufficient appreciation of where to draw the line, you are being directed to attend an appropriate seminar or training session.
In addition to requiring you to obtain appropriate training, we are giving you the following directives with which you must comply.
1….you are directed not to engage in any act, conduct or activity with respect to any school district student that is not expressly required or reasonable implied by your job, any IEP…, your individual contract with the school district, any applicable collective bargaining agreement, the policies of the school district, or legal requirements.
2. You are directed to comply with legal processes and school district policies relating to evaluations and referrals of students and you are to be cognizant of the school district’s resources and programs to address student needs, such as the student assistance program. [This refers to the WIN team which did not follow protocol concerning Pat]
a. As you know, the fundamental mission of the school district is to educate students. Some students have needs that interfere with or impede their education progress. To respond to those needs, the school district has a number of programs in place, such as student assistance [sic] and special education. There are procedures and processes in place that must be complied with, indeed, some procedures and processes are mandated by law and failure to comply with legally required processes and procedures could, depending upon all of the facts of a case, lead to a violation of a student’s civil rights…Based upon your statements at the hearing, we are not sure that you appreciate that fact. For example, you stated several times that what you did was the “right thing” to do. Doing what you may think is the “right thing” to do may nonetheless be violative of a student’s civil rights.
b. Because the school district’s fundamental mission is to educate the students, the needs that the school district responds to are needs that interfere with or impede a student’s education. The school district has no duty, nor even the capacity, to respond to a student’s needs that do not affect the student’s ability to learn…you stated that you engaged in the conduct you did because it was the “right thing” to do. Allow me to raise a rhetorical question – was it the right thing to do according to you, because it was necessary in terms of the student’s education? Or was it the “right thing” to do in terms of issues wholly apart from the student’s educational needs? If the alleged need to see s psychologist was wholly unrelated to education, why were you involved? You are the student’s teacher. You are not the parent. You are not a social welfare agency. You were not designated by anyone to determine when a student needs the services of a psychologist…
3. If you engage in any conduct outside of school and outside of your capacity of your status as a teacher with any student or any parent of any student, you are to do each of the following:
a. Provide a written memorandum to the principal of your school with a copy to the personnel office stating that you will be having contact out of the school and outside of your capacity as a teacher with a student and/or parent of a student enrolled in the school district. The written memorandum must be provided in advance of such interactions.
b. You are directed to advise the student and parent/guardian prior to engaging in any such activity that you are doing so in your personal capacity…You are to advise the student and parent of that fact both orally and in writing. You are required to have the student and parent sign the written statement acknowledging that they received the statement…You are directed to promptly provide a copy of the written statement to your principal and supply a copy to the personnel office….
The Directive letter was to set me up to be fired. The first time I spoke with a parent/student outside of school without submitting prior notice I could be fired for violating the directive of a superior. I live in the district which meant that any contact with another community member who was a parent would be a violation.
I filed a grievance. In a discussion with the grievance chairperson, the superintendent said the “appropriate seminar or training session” should be a course on “making good judgments.” The union filed the grievance out of time, therefore it was not valid.
I filed a federal lawsuit claiming violation of my first amendment rights. The judge dismissed the claims because I had not “openly criticized the district.”
He suggested I file under the fourteenth amendment - claiming I had been treated differently from others and I was being discriminated against because I was advocating for a protected class [a Special Ed student].
The district said I had “violated” IDEA because the IEP did not call for therapy. This is meaningless because the therapy was private and the district had no say as to what was done for the student outside of school. The district said my actions would have been “noble” if Pat had been in regular education, but IDEA specifically forbids helping a Special Ed student. [This is equally absurd.]
The district stated in each brief that the “problems of one troubled teenager were of no importance to the community.”
The judge allowed the superintendent to be his own “expert witness.” Out of six expert witnesses, four of them were school district employees and directly involved with ignoring Pat’s problems. Another expert witness said I violated the transportation laws of PA - there are no laws in PA addressing transporting a student in a private car. There also is no transportation policy in the district concerning this.
The judge dismissed the case in summary judgment claiming I did not have a consent form signed to “evaluate” Pat. There is no consent form for outside therapy. The only consent form is to allow the district to evaluate a student for Spec Ed services. They could not produce the “form” they claimed was not signed. The assistant superintendent said in deposition that no such form exists.
I also “violated” a school district policy which was passed six months after my hearing. This policy said the district could discipline a teacher for after hours behavior [personal time] if the action was in opposition to the district’s interests.
The judge said the superintendent “acted in the interest of protecting the students” although the mother stated in deposition her child would not have lived through her ninth grade year without my help.
Additionally, the judge disregarded all our evidence - including a letter which clearly demonstrated that the superintendent and the assistance superintendent did not discipline an employee who was in possession of a large codified binder of pornographic pictures and a dildo in his office. He also had an illegal lock on his office door. This employee received a three day suspension. The pornographic material was not turned over to the district attorney [as required by law] and the employee continued working in the district, interacting with children with no supervision. Possession of child pornography is a felony, but in our district saving a child’s life is a far greater offense.
I appealed to the Third Circuit court. I lost the appeal based on the same argument that I did not criticize the district. The judge who headed the panel was the wife of the governor of the state. [Gov. Rendell] Her husband is the one in charge of the state’s schools.
I wrote a brief to the Supreme Court claiming that a teacher had a right to privacy on her own time without interference from a school district, provided her activities were not in violation of law or community morals. They refused to hear the case.
I did not return to school for the five years of litigation. In my absence, the district did nothing for Pat although she continued to suffer. Her guidance counselor spoke to her once a year to schedule classes. There were no actions taken by the Spec Ed department. The supervisor of Spec Ed told Pat she had caused enough problems for them. Although the attorney for the district said I had “no right” to hear what Pat was telling me, every IEP after this stated that Pat was to discuss her problems with a teacher.
Pat was allowed to go on a work program [a year early] in order to get her out of school. There was no follow up for this program, so she went to school for three hours and then went home and slept [depression]. The WIN team never spoke with Pat or her parents. She left school before her senior year and completed her course work at a local community college. She is doing better but she is still in therapy.
This district still has no anti-bullying policy although this was required by law as of 2007.
The district was reputed to have spent between $250,000 - $500,000 to argue that a child’s premature death was of no importance to anyone. [At the outset of the lawsuit, we informed the district if it rescinded the Directive Letter I would come back to work. This would have avoided any cost to the district. They refused.]
I had to return to work in 2007. I was in terrible debt due to the lawsuit. I could not procure another teaching job because I had all these charges against me and I had been accused of “improper” relations with a student.
I was only back at school for six months before I was received an unsatisfactory rating. [February 2008.] My evaluation was good, however; they “created” reasons for the unsatisfactory rating.
In October 2008, I was given a hearing for late IEP’s although they were late because of the Supervisor’s actions or because the parents were fighting with the district. I was suspended for 30 days without pay. I was given the option of working during the suspension [the money would be subtracted from my pay] but I had to agree to drop the grievance for the unsatisfactory rating. I refused. The superintendent said I was “uncooperative.”
In 2007-2008 I had told my supervisor I needed assistance. I could either write IEP’s or help the students. I had a double workload because I ran an itinerant classroom AND had to assist in regular ed inclusion classes. A newly hired aide was not assigned to any classes for four periods per day. He slept or did his homework during those four hours. The supervisor refused to assign him to assist with my classes. The supervisor had told him not to help me. The principal and the assistant principal knew this aide was free for a half day; they also refused to assign him to the support room.
In February 2009, I sent an email to the union president detailing a false IEP. The document claimed we were providing instruction for a student we (1) never saw and (2) from a program we did not have.
Two hours later I was told there would be another pre-termination hearing. [This was the second one of the 08-09 school year.] I was accused of not instructing students in a Study Skills class. I had given them a twenty minute “mini” lesson as per instructions we received at a Spec Ed meeting. Although all the teachers were teaching this amount of time, and despite ample evidence that we were told to do this, the principal said I was “lying.” I was now found to be “immoral” because they claimed I was lying about the mini lessons to “cover for my lack of compliance.” [I have pictures and documents which prove the other teachers are giving “mini” lessons to this day.]
I am not working and have to survive on unemployment compensation. I am a single parent with a large mortgage and a great deal of legal debt. When I spoke with an attorney about this retaliation he looked over my notes and said there was no doubt that these people wanted me silenced.
This is a wealthy, suburban school district. They dump Spec Ed kids into regular classes although they cannot do the work. They push children through, graduating kids who cannot read. They tell children who can’t do third grade work that they will go to college. They lie with impunity to parents. Everyone suffers. Of course, if school district personnel do not care if a child lives or dies, you could not expect them to be overly concerned with actual learning.
“…the problems of one troubled teenager are of no importance to the community.”