A Teacher, And A Charter School
In New Jersey, Chris Christie, in his first year as Governor, has proposed $820 million in education cuts, encouraged voters to reject local school budgets (which they largely did), refused to make legally-mandated payments to the state's pension system, and pushed "public school teachers should forego their raises, contribute to the cost of their health care and contribute a market-based share of their pension." Early in his assault on New Jersey's public school system, in March he spoke to the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and assured it
We will do many good things for charters schools. In fact, I’ve held charter schools harmless in this budget because you already pay enough. There are going to be more charter schools a year from now than there are today.
Hopefully (and about all we can do is hope), those charter schools won't be like this one (video below) in Houston, as reported by the Houston Chronicle:
The tearful mother of a 13-year-old boy announced on Thursday that she is suing Jamie's House Charter School and a teacher there who was caught on video allegedly beating up the teen late last month.
The lawsuit, filed in Harris County, accuses Sheri Lynn Davis, 40, of assaulting Isaiah Reagins for more than a minute — kicking him, slapping his face and dragging him on the floor of a classroom. The suit also accuses the school of negligence and attempting to cover up the incident, which another student filmed with a cell phone camera.
“I thought she was playing at first until she threw the desk, and then that's when I got scared,” Isaiah said of Davis, who has worked at Jamie's House for three years.
Isaiah said he and other students were dancing and laughing at a female student before Davis entered the room. He recalled Davis telling him, “So, you want to fight a girl? Fight me.”
At least the charter school acted promptly followed this apparently extreme instance of workplace violence and criminal assault. Well, no:
It was in a classroom at the school two weeks ago when a student recorded Davis pounding on a 6th grader.
The beating occurred on April 29 and the victim's mother, she maintains, called the school April 30, didn't get a response, and met with the teacher and school administrators May 3. The teacher was placed on administrative leave but fired only after local television broadcast the altercation, because the school's security camera erases its tape at the end of each month.
There was, we can suppose, no way for the school or the state of Texas to anticipate such a violent act by one of the charter school's professional employees. Or was there?
The teacher caught on tape attacking a 13-year-old student has had a pending criminal charge against her for more than a year.
40-year old Sheri Lynn Davis has had a warrant out for her arrest since March of last year, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
The D.A's office says Davis was wanted on a "criminal mischief" charge. Davis is accused of slashing a woman's tires, all four of them, with a knife.
It allegedly happened last year in January. According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office a warrant was issued for the teacher's arrest in March of 2009.
With an outstanding warrant for her arrest, Davis continued to teach science at Jamie's House Charter School in Northwest Harris County.
She has been wanted by the law this entire school year.
Yesterday on CNN's Rick's List, Rick Sanchez was asked, apparently rhetorically, by a black head of a charter school if there would have been more outrage if the camera had caught a white teacher beating a black student, rather than the black on black assault. He didn't elaborate and it is a question without an easy answer. But here is a similar question with a much easier answer:
Would there have been more outrage if this incident had occurred in a public school?
For nearly the entire country, as inarguably in New Jersey, the answer very likely "yes." But it is far more likely to occur in charter schools, recipient of tax money with relatively little oversight. Again: Fourteen months after Davis allegedly slashed with a knife all four tires of a woman's car, and twelve months after a warrant was issued for her, she still was teaching in a charter school. Several days after the attack on the student, she still was teaching, disciplined and fired only after a cell phone video hit the airwaves.
The chairman of the charter schools association New Jersey Governor Christie addressed optimistically commented
Now we’re positioned to work with the new administration to work on creative measures to help us increase the impact that we have in our communities.
He probably did not mean the sort of impact Jamie's House Charter School already has had on the city of Houston. But the incident does illustrate a difference between charter schools and public schools, aside from the more extensive screening process typically employed before a teacher gets a job in a municipality's public schools and the federal tax credit extended to private investors in charter schools. If a similar incident occurs somewhere in the country in a public school, you and I will hear about it and the fallout will not be limited to the individual teacher but extend to the union, teachers throughout the state, and the public education system, perhaps everywhere.
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