The Philosophy and Opinions of Bushido Garvey

The boom-bap analysis, reflection, and expression of an educator.

9

Open Letter to RCSD Teachers Regarding Contract: Voting “No” Tomorrow for Students

Editor’s Note: This letter was originally drafted March 22nd, the day before RCSD teachers had to vote on the approval of their contract. It attempts to explain how approving the contract under a few suspicious circumstances is harmful for our students.

 

Hello Fellow Panthers and Teachers,

 

As you all know, tomorrow we are to vote on whether or not we approve of the newly drafted RTA contract. What I am about to say isn’t a condemnation of the union that is fighting to increase my pay and bring stability to my school schedule by defining the length of the school day, establishing common planning time, and promoting early student release for teacher meetings. These are all things that I would obviously want as an educator and appreciate as a union member. However, it is also my responsibility as a union member to voice with a corrective love things that startle me. There is a clause in our contract that states the following:

 

Crimes committed in schools will be pursued as crimes committed elsewhere, to the extent the District has the right to press charges for those crime. In all other events, the District will fully support the teacher who chooses to press charges on his/her own behalf.

 

We all know how wild some students can be, but we also can’t ignore the fact that the vague nature of this teacher contract clause can be easily abused by professionals. I say that for anecdotal and statistical reasons. I was at a dinner seminar where an educator’s response to the suggestion that pre-K-4th graders shouldn’t  being arrested for assault was “a crime is a crime, and those students should get the same punishment as they would if they did it in the streets.” This man’s statement about criminalizing elementary kids for wrong doing was met with considerable applause. The Advancement Project did an independent study about the disciplinary practices of our district, and the results were staggering. The study (found here) shows how we already disproportionately suspend kids for minor infractions, and nationally we disproportionately suspend black, latino, and sped students for the same infractions that other students commit. Imagine how much more malpractice will happen with a clause that provides carte blanche for some of our colleagues that subjectively label our student’s behavior as criminal without an objective process of determining the validity of the accusation. You personally may not participate in inappropriately pursuing charges for students, but that doesn’t mean other teachers haven’t and/or won’t with this vague clause that specifies no grade/age limit, specific misbehaviors, etc.

 

As I previously stated, there are elements of this contract that are amazing for us, but as I illustrated in the previous paragraph, voting “yes” to this contract as it is currently written would be serving our best interest at the expense of our students. Some of us understand this already, some of us are still comprehending this reality, and some of us may downright disagree with this truth. Disagreeing is a right, and so is a right to discourse, which had been clearly stunted because so few of us as teachers had anything to do with the formulation of this contract and were left with so little time to analyze it before we were instructed to make a quick vote tomorrow morning. I believe we can draft and inform a contract that can equitably serve teachers and students at the same time. Until then, my vote is “no,” and I hope you share these values.

 

Your Colleague,

 

 

 

Brandon White

Restorative Practices

NW & NE Jr./Sr. High @ The Frederick Douglass Campus

940 Fernwood Park

#: 585-324-9273 ext. 3230

Twitter: @ClassroomB

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bushidogarvey • March 22, 2016


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Comments

  1. Jahaka Mindstorm March 23, 2016 - 7:09 am Reply

    Will this meeting be open to the public?

    • bushidogarvey March 23, 2016 - 5:49 pm Reply

      Absolutely!

  2. Fredrick Douglass March 24, 2016 - 10:53 am Reply

    I called to be part of the meeting with the bored today at 6PM

  3. “Crimes committed in schools will be pursued as crimes committed elsewhere” An Open Letter to RCSD teachers from Brandon White. And restorative justice – Talker of the Town
  4. Neely Kelley March 24, 2016 - 2:01 pm Reply

    thank you so so much for speaking out about this. My 2 daughters are in the RCSD – and I find this short clause very very very worrisome and disturbing. Honestly, I am not concerned about my own children (they are doing well) but I am very concerned about other children in their classrooms and school who do have behavior challenges – The answer is not more criminalization of the behavior –

    • bushidogarvey March 25, 2016 - 10:36 am Reply

      Thank you for supporting this way of thinking. Unfortunately, it isnt over and we have to stay watchful.

  5. The Philosophy and Opinions of Bushido Garvey » Reaction to the Board’s RTA Contract “Yes” Vote.
  6. Cynthia Mady March 26, 2016 - 7:53 pm Reply

    Hi Brandon,
    Even though I am retired, I try to keep up with what is going on in the RCSD. I can so see your position on the latest contract conversations. I was one of those teachers who constantly complained about the bad behavior of some of the students. However, the main reason I retired was because of the lack of effective administrative leadership (those who were looking only to move up the ladder) and the foolishness of the common core assessments, even though a student who I didn’t even know threatened to cut my throat with an unseen knife because I told him to “go to class.” I’m sorry for what has happened with the union’s idea of what they think will fix everything, because I know it won’t. I’m sorry that the Greater Rochester society will not even address the problem of how poverty affects education. I agree with you entirely that students should not be automatically arrested as if they were street thugs. But, until The RSCD has effective programs in place that can positively deal with these children, teachers (especially white, middle class suburban-living teachers) will fear these students and look for retaliation if they (the teachers) are threatened by them. It sucks that RCSD is so screwed up, but it is good that people like you can see through the bad stuff. I can only hope that you, and those who agree with you, can somehow push some more positive solutions toward helping to educate the kids that don’t even realize how much they need it to help make Rochester the great city that it has the potential of being. Keep making noise; keep making positive change.

  7. Kindergarten Teacher March 28, 2016 - 1:24 pm Reply

    I am a white, middle-class, suburban woman (talk, thin & blond also) who has been teaching in RCSD schools for 20+ years. Despite the fact that I have been stolen from & assaulted by 5 yr olds (does “legs pulled out from under me then knocked backward” count? How about ” bitten so hard I had to get a tetanus booster!”?) I am not seeking retaliation. And boy, if I made a reverse comment referring to “minorities living off the system who come into school daily just to create havoc,” even kids who are as young as PreK, my comments would probably be blasted through all media!! And I would deserve that! I have enough integrity to not feel the need to bring race, class, or area of residence into this picture…
    Not one employee of the district should have to protect themselves & other students from kids who do not respect safety & property. No one should have to fear parents, who expect us to take care of their kids, when the parents can’t teach them to behave & respect any teachers, schools or educational processes. So if someone commits a crime, they should be processed as the law would for their age. Period. No victim should be shamed into downplaying or hiding such crimes – isn’t that bullying?! And the parents should be held accountable, as well.

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