Rafe Esquith, a nationally-recognized teacher at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, was removed from class several months ago after another teacher complained about him. What was his crime? Reading Mark Twain, according to The Los Angeles Times:
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."
The Twain quote might sound a little funny out of context, but there's nothing inappropriate about it, as far as I can tell.
Esquith's attorney said the state's credentialing committee has already determined that he did nothing wrong. But he hasn't been allowed to return to class yet. The district is hoping to clear up the matter by August.
Esquith certainly sounds like a good teacher. He has written three books about teaching, won awards, and runs a nonprofit called "the Hobart Shakespeareans." But public schools tend to reward the teachers with the most seniority, rather than the most effective ones.
Read more from Reason on the incompetence of the Los Angeles Unified School District here.