The Los Angeles Unified School District is desperate to find a reason—inappropriate behavior, financial mismanagement, or anything else—to justify its punitive treatment of all-star educator Rafe Esquith, an award-winning teacher and Shakespeare enthusiast.
The investigation of Esquith already seemed like a witch-hunt, but new details suggest that district officials have behaved even more odiously than was previously understood.
Esquith, who teaches low-income and minority fifth graders, made a joke about the difficulty he was having raising enough funds for the yearly Shakespeare production, which he finances through donations to his non-profit. As I previously noted, "While reading a passage from Huckleberry Finn in which 'the king came prancing out on all fours, naked,' Esquith remarked that if he couldn't raise additional funds for his annual production, he supposed 'the class would have to similarly perform naked.'"
The joke was overheard by another teacher, who deemed it inappropriate and reported Esquith to the principal, Jonathan Paek.
But according to LA School Report, Paek made Esquith sign a humiliating letter of apology:
Before consulting with an attorney, Esquith signed the apology, which read:
"I am deeply and sincerely sorry that any comment someone hear, or thought they heard, has anyone uncomfortable. I am a teacher who prides himself on professionalism. I dress immaculately for the job. Over a thousand teachers a year come to my class to seek my guidance about the profession of teaching. As a proud teacher, I am deeply saddened by this situation."
Esquith was suspended anyway, and now sits in one of the infamous "rubber rooms" while he waits for the district to decide his fate.
Officials are doing their best to dig up dirt on him. LA School Report also claims that the district is investigating his non-profit's finances as well:
"It looks like the bizarre accusations of abuse have been forgotten, and now they're moving on a request to see 15 years of financial records for the Shakespearean group," said Ben Meiselas, of Geragos & Geragos, who is representing the teacher, and referred to the continuing investigation as a fishing expedition to try to find something wrong with his client.
It's almost as if a successful, entrepreneurial, free-thinking teacher is an institutional threat to the hideously inefficient, soul-crushing bureaucracy of the public education establishment. Clearly, he must be stopped at all costs.