Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Teacher Charges That Job Was Lost Due To Photograph Of President In Classroom

Partisan Politics?
Hat tip to The Pirate for alerting The Education Wonks to the story of a teacher that is said to have lost her job because she had a picture of President Bush on one of her classroom bulletin boards. Eager to learn more, the EdWonk has begun looking into the matter.

Shiba Pillai-Diaz is a first-year teacher at Crossroads South Middle School in the South Brunswick, New Jersey School District. However, she is not new to the craft of teaching. She has 6 years of prior teaching experience in other school districts.

On the O'Reilly Factor this evening, Ms. Pillai-Diaz indicated that she had posted a photograph of President Bush (as well as several other historical documents) on a small "personal" bulletin board. She said that after several parents and students had expressed concern, an assistant principal asked her to pull it down. She declined to remove the photograph of the President from the bulletin board.

Ms. Pillai-Diaz then said that the Assistant Principal could pull it down himself. O'Reilly asked her if she was fired for this. Here Ms. Pillai-Diaz hesitated before finally saying that she had been asked to leave school property.

All school districts are loath (for fear of litigation) to discuss personnel issues, but the South Brunswick School District has broken tradition. You can read it here. (Be sure to "click" on the "running notice" at the top of the page.) This episode has very quickly achieved national prominence after being portrayed on local television and newspapers. The story has been "picked-up" on Drudge, as well as being profiled on "The O'Reilly Factor." In its press release, the District indicated that this is the reason that they have chosen to "go public" with their side of this story.

The Command Post Op-Ed (with links to other journalists) has written extensively on this still-developing story. "It is confusing who to believe," is their opinion. The Education Wonks concurs in that assessment. It is The Education Wonks' belief that if Ms. Pillai-Diaz loses her job, it will be due to insubordination rather than politics. It is also highly probable that the local governing board will uphold her dismissal for failing to follow (what will be said as) the legal directive of her assistant principal.

The EdWonk is a classroom teacher with 13 years service. Anyone that knows the EdWonk personally will verify that he is no friend of any school administration. However, the EdWonk always "calls 'em as he sees' em." It is well-known among classroom teachers that the first response of many school district administrations is "spin-control," and the denial of any responsibility for ill-advised decisions.

After examining both sides, we feel that there is more than meets the eye in this particular instance.

Your EdWonk is attempting to contact Superintendent Gary P McCartney and other sources in the community for additional information.

Please See Update On Next Page