Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Joplin School District's charges against me

As most Turner Report readers are aware, I was removed from my classroom at Joplin East Middle School April 8, placed on paid administrative leave.

Last night, as I read over the 28-page list of charges against me, I grew both angry and depressed.

Finally, I began detailing the charges on my Facebook page.

I am going to take a different approach for this blog and simply repeat the way I reported it on Facebook last night and early this morning:

I have already written my first blog post on my situation (other than the KOAM video). I am awaiting suggestions on it. 
Basically, though the charges against me are "immoral conduct" because I posted the Daily Kos article that I linked to on Facebook last night on a website called Room 210 Discussion that I started at South so students and former students can have discussions about the kinds of issues we have always discussed in class. The site was never used as a classroom website and never really caught on, but I did not shut it down, nor did I shut down another failed website called Room 210 for Teachers. THe Daily Kos article, which I will link to again in a few minutes, had a part toward the end that said that encouraged people to download and discuss No Child Left Alive. Every once in a while, I copy and paste one of my articles into some of my lesser websites, in case someone comes across it on a search engine.

By putting it on Room 210 Discussion, the charges say, "Mr. Turner posted class materials on the Room 210 Discussion blog so that students would have to visit the blog in order to fully participate in class."

I would be surprised if any of my students have ever heard of Room 210 Discussion, unless, of course, the ones who were interviewed during the investigation were told about it by the HR person. It is not a part of my class nor has it ever been. I tried to tell that to the HR person, but she said, "You will get your chance to talk later." I am still waiting for that chance.

(More to come)


***

Toward the top of page two, the charges say, "The book, No Child Left Alive, written by Mr. Turner, contains the following sexually explicit and violent passages;" I do not intend to repeat those. I have never said there is not sex in the book. It was never intended for young readers, which is why it is the only book I have written under my real name, instead of Randy, the name I go by.

Pages 2 through 17 of the charges is simply one paragraph after another taken from the book, no additional charges. Some of them are sex scenes, although there is nothing that comes anywhere near to pornographic (something that should be apparent to those parents who have downloaded it since all of this started." Some are simply high school students talking with each other. Some of it is violence (there is a school shooting incident toward the end of the book.) Some of it is language. The language and scenes are appropriate in the book, but I am not going to put them on Facebook.


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Continuing, the charges say, "Mr. Turner encouraged his middle school students to read his books, including No Child Left Alive, in order to discuss them in class." That never happened and they are fully aware it never happened.

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"Although the District recognizes Mr. Turner's right to privately author and publish creative works, providing inappropriate materials of a sexually explicit nature to children is immoral conduct and negatively impacts his ability to be a positive role model as a teacher in the District.

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Also from the charges, "Mr. Turner's immoral conduct as described herein renders him unfit to supervise and teach children. His integrity and respect have been compromised by his actions, and his continued employment would adversely impact the students, the educational environment and the District as a whole."

***

Continuing the charges, all related to my putting the Daily Kos article on Room 210 Discussion: "Mr. Turner's immoral conduct as described herein is contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, and good morals so as to render him unfit to serve as a role model for children."

***

That was all from the first charge. The second charge, which begins on page 18 is "Willful or Persistent Violation of Board Policies." "Mr. Turner willfully and/or persistently failed to obey the school laws of the state or the published regulations of the Board of Education by providing and promoting obscene material he authored entitled No Child Left Alive that contains graphic depictions of sexuality, rape, domestic violence, and school violence to 12, 13, and 14 year old children through his blog for his middle school communication arts class."

Again, Room 210 Discussion is not my classroom blog, nor has it ever been. We use three blogs, EMS Roundabout, which is the Journalism Club blog, Mr. Turner's Corner, my classroom blog, and Room 210 Civil Rights, which I created to go along with the third quarter research project.

The charges continue, "Mr. Turner's actions as described above are in violation of Board Policy AC (Prohibition Against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation, which prohibits sexual harassment."

"No Child Left Alive, which Mr. Turner made available to middle school students through the Room 210 Discussion classroom blog, contains communications of a sexual nature, including comments about sexual activity in violation of Board Policy AC.

"No Child Left Alive, which Mr. Turner made available to middle school students through the Room 210 Discussion classroom blog, includes written descriptions of physical conduct based on sex in violation of Board Policy AC."


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According to the charges, I also violated the policy about staff/student relations. That is explained on page 20. "Mr. Turner engaged in conduct that violates Board Policy GBH by violating other board policies, including, but not limited to Board Policy AC, and by making No Child Left Alive available to middle school students through his Room 210 Discussion classroom blog.

"The actions of Mr. Turner in making No Child Left Alive available to middle school students through the Room 210 Discussion classroom blog demonstrates a failure to maintain professional boundaries by communicating with students about sexual topics in violation of Board Policy GBH.

"Mr. Turner further engaged in conduct that violates Board Policy GBH by using a means of electronic communication in a manner that was not authorized by his supervisor.

"Mr. Turner engaged in conduct that violates Board Policy GBH by making No Child Left Alive available to middle school students through the Room 210 Discussion classroom blog, thereby using electronic communications to communicate with students regarding matters of a sexual nature."


***

The next part, which I am not going to print word for word indicates that since Room 210 Discussion "bears the imprimatur of the district," that I am responsible for what is on there.

***

According to the charges, I also violated district expectations which require me to "refrain from using profanity." Mr. Turner violated Board Policy GBCB when he posted on a classroom blog made available to students, and encouraged them to read for discussion purposes No Child Left Alive, which fails to provide quality instruction, contains sexually explicit and age-inappropriate content, and contains profanity."

***
The charges also accuse me of teaching about human sexuality, which says you must "present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relation to all sexual activity for unmarried students because it is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity."

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I forgot to mention on the last one that I was supposed to do have done that "when I posted No Child Left Alive, by failing to adhere to District policy and procedure on the Room 210 Discussion blog.

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I am also in trouble because I did not ask for approval to assign No Child Left Alive for discussion (which would have been hard to do since I didn't assign it in the first place). "Anyone wishing to distribute unofficial material must first submit for approval a copy of the material to the principal or designee 24 hours in advance of desired distribution time." I violated Board Policy IGBDA, they say, "when he posted, made available to students, and encouraged them to read for discussion purposes unofficial material in the form of No Child Left Alive on the Room 210 Discussion blog without obtaining prior authorization."

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From page 24 (we are nearing the end) "Mr. Turner violated Board Policy IIA when he posted, made available to students, and encouraged them to read for discussion purposes No Child Left Alive, which fails to meet the district's high standard for quality instructional materials and fails to advance the goals of the District on the Room 210 Discussion blog.

"Mr. Turner willfully or persistently failed to obey the school laws of the State or the published regulations of the Board of Education by providing and promoting obscene material he authored entitled No Child Left Alive that contains graphic depictions of sexuality, rape, domestic violence and school violence in 12, 13, and 14-year-old students through his blog for his middle school communication arts class after he had notice of policies that would prohibit him from doing so without District authorization."


***

As I reach the middle of page 24, finally all of the nonsense about No Child Left Alive is over Now we turn to Scars from the Tornado, which coincidentally i also posted an article about on Room 210 Discussion. (Why I picked those two times to post on Room 210 Discussion and Room 210 for Teachers, I don't know, but I did." All of Page 25 is a repeat of this story, which appeared in the March 13, 2013, Turner Report:
http://rturner229.blogspot.com/2013/03/final-day-for-free-scars-from-tornado.html


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The charges the note that I copyrighted the book that "Scars from the Tornado is for sale to the general public on Amazon.com for $3.99 and is also available at some retail locations.

"Mr. Turner instructed his eighth grade students to write the stories, essays, and comments that were late incorporated into Scars from the Tornado."

"Mr. Turner then compiled his students' work into a book that he has marketed for personal gain.

"The parents of students in Mr Turner's class did not give permission for Mr. Turner to publish their children's classroom works."


***


These are called signed parental permission slips.















***

No one ever asked me about any of these things. During the 10 minutes I was interviewed, the only question about Scars from the Tornado I was asked was if I had ads for it on my classroom blogs (they were probably talking about Room 210 Discussion, I thought they were talking about EMS Roundabout and Mr. Turner's Corner." After I said yes, I was immediately placed on paid administrative leave.

As for the other allegations, the writing was not a classroom assignment, it was voluntary writing for a contest, for which prizes were awarded (out of my own pocket, I had better add).


***

I am charged with conflict of interest for copyrighting the book, which the school says is its property and for "when he attempted to use his position with the District to cause patrons and students to purchase Scars from the Tornado on amazon.com." 

This makes me angrier than just about anything I have seen (and I am plenty angry about all of this).

1. If profit was my motive, I certainly would not have given away 1,111 free e-copies.

2. On Facebook and on the Turner Report, I asked readers for suggestions on how proceeds from the book should be used. I mentioned the Joplin Fire Department's Christmas for Kids, other projects, and finally I really loved the idea Sheri Cornett came up with to form a Scars from the Tornado Foundation with those who contributed to the book serving as the board of directors and giving money to other schools who are faced with tragedies similar to the Joplin Tornado. I talked this over with Bud Sexson, with other teachers, and I wrote about it both on Facebook and on the Turner Report. I also talked the idea over with my students, who were in favor of it.

3. I have yet to receive a cent from Amazon.com The book was published in March and no money will arrive from that source until sometime next month.

4. Bud Sexson was also told, as were readers of the Turner Report and my Facebook page that in my efforts to raise money for the book, I lost more than $4,000 to Google. This was also written on the national Daily Kos.

5. And though I hate to mention this, in case he is reading, I also owe $250 now and $250 later to the book's designer, David Hoover.

6. In other words, I have not made a dime off Scars from the Tornado and the people who made these charges already know that.


***
The 28 pages ends (and isn't it about time) by saying, Mr. Turner engaged in a conflict of interest in violation of Board Policy GBCA when he caused his students to create work product that he used to publish and students created for class for personal gain without School Board or parent authorization after he had notice of policies that would prohibit him from doing so."

Again, I have not made a dime off Scars from the Tornado. If this book was such a bad thing, then why did my principal not tell me I couldn't write it during any of the at least four times I talked with him about it?


***

And that, Facebook friends, is why Joplin School Administration thinks I should lose my job after 10 years.

***

Did I mention that for what some of you have just been reading, I was escorted out of the building and to my car, just after school ended and while buses were loading by the school's police officer (and stupid me, I forgot my jacket so I had to be escorted back into the building and then escorted back to my car.)

***

The interrogation of me on Monday, April 8, before I was escorted out by the police officer (and I don't blame him, he was doing his job) took only 10 minutes and part of that was spent telling me I could not record the conversation and then being asked to remove my I-phone from my pocket, turn it off, and leave it on the table."

***

Much of the end of the time was spent telling me what I could and could not do while I was on leave. For 28 pages of charges, I probably was asked about six or seven minutes worth of questions. I was not allowed to explain about Room 210 Discussion, nor was she interested, and I was never asked the Scars from the Tornado questions.



14 comments:

Jonathan Dresner said...

So this basically boils down to a misunderstanding, possibly willful, about the distinction between personal and class-related blogs, and about copyright.

This is precisely why employer-based "social media policies" make me nervous: essentially all public speech becomes vulnerable to censorship and punishment.

And why the canonization of teachers as "role models", and the codification of it into law, has been such a toxic mess.

george1la said...

A friend and myself just got out of an 1.5 hour meeting with a chief of local staff for a congressperson on just this subject of false charges on teachers which leads to illegal termination. They, as most, had no idea this was going on. We have massive amounts of information. My friend has a data base of over 600 teachers who have been falsely accused and illegally terminated or about to be terminated without the legally required Skelly Hearings and/or due process. California now has a bill, AB 375, which will take away more due process rights and will take the time, supposedly, from going to the decision process from 60 days to 7 months and they have the nerve to say that it will speed up the process to eliminate teachers. You can read more about this on perdaily.com.

Mary Cummins said...

I'm very sorry you are experiencing this. I've been following your blogs for a few years. It sounds like they wanted to get rid of you for being out spoken and well liked. It looks like they were just trying to find a reason. I was once unlawfully terminated. I sued the City and got a settlement. You should consider a lawsuit.

Susan said...

It is sad you are being targeted for merely having a point of view, but you are finding out the hard way that you have no rights at all in K-12 public ed. "Tenure" doesn't truly exist in public ed but is just the same thing other public sector employees go through with fake hearings and the like. If a school district wants to get rid of you, it can pretty much do it. Even if you "win" this battle, you still have a target on your back.

It would be a good idea for you to get a lawyer at least to negotiate a settlement if it comes to that.

I was somebody who was illegally fired five years ago by my school district, and because I wasn't told about EEOC and the like by my fake "union," I have been completely and totally destroyed financially. I have never again gotten back on my feet financially.

Anonymous said...

Hey gutless, still preying on Joplin youth? Why are not posting my comments? Scared I'm right? Or scared someone might have read my questions and started asking more about your background.
Perhaps phone calls and e-mails to a few key decision makers will help put you in your place.

JohnD said...

Sir, I applaud your work. Obviously, this is the work of a school board group with a vendetta. No doubt there are parents in your part of Missouri, just like my part of Georgia, that dislike all that free thinking stuff. May I say something?

At 2 years sober, living in my home town a little discouraged and out of meaningful employment, a friend said "Why don't you run for office?". I did, I worked hard at it, and I won a seat by a respectable margin.

Please sir, go get a seat on that school board. Or run for state office. We need smart people like you in office, setting an example for the know-nothings that they are the minority.

I am truly sorry that a group of petty tyrants did this to you. Please, have a go at office - I bet you'll be surprised how many good people show up to support you.

JohnD said...

Sir, I applaud your work. Obviously, this is the work of a school board group with a vendetta. No doubt there are parents in your part of Missouri, just like my part of Georgia, that dislike all that free thinking stuff. May I say something?

At 2 years sober, living in my home town a little discouraged and out of meaningful employment, a friend said "Why don't you run for office?". I did, I worked hard at it, and I won a seat by a respectable margin.

Please sir, go get a seat on that school board. Or run for state office. We need smart people like you in office, setting an example for the know-nothings that they are the minority.

I am truly sorry that a group of petty tyrants did this to you. Please, have a go at office - I bet you'll be surprised how many good people show up to support you.

Anonymous said...

What was done to you was unfair and malicious and you should have been allowed to defend yourself.
It sounds like they really wanted to just get rid of you without any real evidence but pure speculation.

The HR department has not improved. A student reported Franklin Technical School Nursing Instructors (a division of Joplin Schools) encouraging students to harass another student after it was reported that the student was being stalked. The student had a rock thrown thru their windshield and a knife stabbed into the porch.

The student reported it all to the HR department and the instructors were not only NOT punished, they have continued retaliating against the student and encouraged the other students to bully and threaten the student.

The student has this all on tape and the HR department did nothing. So its sad that good teachers like you get dismissed for encouraging your kids to think and these teachers have nothing happen to them after obviously violating many Joplin School System policies, harassing a student, retaliating against a student, calling a student "stupid" and "disgusting, and acting in a malicious manner toward a student."

Its really sad to see how political the school system in Joplin is. They only follow polices according to whom it applies to. It is a very biased system. Whats worse is these are the people TEACHING our kids how to be nurses...SCARY!!!

BOOOO Joplin School System!!!

and Franklin Technical School Nursing program.....shame on you all. You should all feel ashamed.

You rock Turner!!! Stay the battle!!! There are many people fighting it with you!!!!

Anonymous said...

mr. Turner, you are a great guy and everyone thinks highly of you and your work! Thank you for fighting.

Also, I know for a fact that whats being said is ALL TRUE. Tina and the HR department DO NOT do through investigations. They do not question everyone involved. I even gave a list of witnesses and not one person was questioned but the gave me a letter stating there wasnt enough information to investigate. There were over 16 witnesses!!!! But it all depends on who they are.

They do not give the accused a proper investigation or the chance to defend themselves. I have joined with others in preperation for a law suit. Its sad when it has to come to that just because the HR department cant conduct proper investigations.

Anonymous said...

I know about the FTC situation. Its really bad and everyone in the school system knows about it. The nursing program had a girl haressed via anonymous emails and she submitted it to the head of nursing (Kim Mercer) who shared it with her subordinates and then they shared the derogatory emails with the students.

TOTALLY UNPROFESSIONAL!!! We teachers are told to never discuss complaints with anyone. The student complained and then the instructors encouraged the other students to harass the student. Her car and home were vandalised . A knife was stabbed into her porch with a note. When the teachers found out they told the students that the girl deserved it.

There is a full scale investigation going on with police involvement. They are trying to get her kicked out of the program and are making her life hell.

Its a sad situation. the administration isnt doing anything. Something bad is going to happen to this girl if something isnt done soon. What an utter failure as a teacher and as administrators. Great job of protecting our students. We look like jerks and its embarressing when they allow this kind of stuff to happen.

At least the girl was smart enough to get it all on tape. I smell a lawsuit....

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher that reported a rape to the counselor. I received a letter from Tina telling me that it was not my place to get involved and my job was on the line.

The HR nazi group is insane if they think teachers are not going to go to bat for their students!

It's appalling! I'm ready to leave with the 27 people who left last year!!! Admin is out of control!!!!

Ggwes2113 said...

I'm a former FTC nursing student. Mrs. Mercer is NUTS. I've never seen anyone cry in front of a classroom of students so much!!! It's insane!!! If she wants you gone she will beat a student down until they go. She's got serious mental problems...I feel sorry for that girl!!! I've seen how hateful they can be on kids they don't like. U know what they say though- those who can DO, those who can't make it in the real world-teach

Anonymous said...

The HR department doesn't follow it's own policies. I know people that have submitted complaints and not hear anything for weeks. I heard they are about to face a big lawsuit because if not following policies.

Anonymous said...

No one hires nurses from FTC. Not since Judy left. Judy taught her students right and everyone knew she made her students follow rules. FTC nursing is a train wreck now. The students are unruly, rude, and have no clue what professionalism is. We won't even hire them. We have made complaints to their upper management and they brush us off. Who the heck is in charge over there cuz no one ever knows who to talk to? Not like they do anything. I heard all the staff is leaving and going to other schools and they are having a hard time keeping teachers. Sounds like they are running off all the good teachers and replacing them with morons. Explains the poor quality of students.