$200K to burn?

In last year's The Leadership Limbo, we learned that restrictive union contracts aren't always to blame when teachers who shouldn't be teaching don't exit the profession. Too often, administrators don't take the necessary steps to remove a teacher from the classroom; they look the other way to avoid conflict and hassles. Such behavior by principals and superintendents is now costing the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district $200,000 to defend its firing of John Freshwater, a veteran teacher who, for years, used his science class to push his Christian beliefs and who used a laboratory electrical generator to mark crosses onto students' arms. Says the Columbus Dispatch:

The unfortunate experience should be a cautionary lesson to other school districts dealing with teachers whose personal beliefs get in the way of their responsibility to educate: Don't look the other way for years, even if the teacher is well-liked and personable. The mistake was not in firing Freshwater but in waiting so long to do it.

Unfortunately, the biggest losers are the students: that $200,000 lawsuit tab is enough to buy 1,666 graphing calculators, which comes out to one calculator for every three students in the district.

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