Doug Bartlett, a veteran teacher with an upstanding record of 17 years, has filed a lawsuit against the school district of Chicago for suspending him without pay after giving a lesson on gardening tools to his second grade students.
The incident took place on August 8, 2011 at Washington Irving Elementary School.
Mr. Bartlett recently filed suit on April 17, 2013 saying that he suffered humiliation and embarrassment as a result of his reprimand.
The “hazardous” tools in question were pliers, screwdrivers and wrenches that only the teacher handled. The tools were kept in a locked toolbox high on a shelf out of reach before and after the gardening lesson.
The district says that Mr. Bartlett exhibited negligence in supervising the children and for “possessing, carrying, storing, or using a weapon”. He was subsequently suspended without pay for 4 days.
Mr. Bartlett’s lawsuit claims the suspension violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process as he asserts that there was never a full hearing on the incident. Further, he was disciplined without ever having the opportunity to plead his case.
According to the Rutherford Institute which is representing him, Mr. Bartlett is seeking damages and requesting the suspension be expunged from his teaching record.
It is important to have electronic records in order as the charge of possessing a “weapon”, in this case gardening tools, has the potential to prevent Mr. Bartlett from seeking employment elsewhere.
The incident is yet another example of an over the top reaction by school officials demonstrating poor judgment and a gross lack of common sense.
A related story occurred in the Fall of 2012 when the Vice Principal of a California school suspended a boy for bringing kombucha in his lunchbox. With no parent or guardian present at any time, the boy was interrogated in the school office by school administration and a police officer and was ultimately suspended for 5 days for “violating” the school’s drug and alcohol policy. No tests were ever performed on the beverage which is able to be legally purchased by minors at local stores.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist