The narrative also stated that the students were assured that they would not get in any trouble for the use of such language.
In another statement two female students said they’d heard Shane Covert (fictitious name) “give them permission to use cuss words.”
A third statement about the play was signed by five students. “Mr. Covert read it. He said the “F” word almost every other word the substitute OK’d the script but he said to take a few out.”
After hearing from my third-period drama class I went to Mrs. London’s (fictitious name) room and asked for a copy of the play. Two of the boys were special education students assigned to her because of their poor language skills. My drama class was an elective that involved students of all abilities, including special education.
Mrs. London gave me the original and told me the entire story. Because of the language being used she had confiscated the script while the boys were working on it during their home room period. The raw language caused her to request a meeting with the parents, the boys, and a member of administration. She thought everything was resolved.
I first heard from this boy’s family after I assigned a play from the book, More Scenes that Happen by Judy Krell-Oishi. The family objected to the use of the word “hell” in the book. I had purchased the book at the Montana Teacher’s Convention and Victor Baird had approved it for classroom use. It joined a long list of novels for eighth graders that were approved for our curriculum. Many of those books contained strong language.
At a hearing on the subject, Harold Ferret not only refused to believe that such language existed in approved books, he told the attendees that my personal character wasn’t as good as that of the boy’s family. Ferret obviously wasn’t familiar with the current curriculum. During a later hearing, I provided them some examples of the kind of language that could be found in one of the most revered books in our curriculum, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. These words include:
- Well, hell
- crazy bastard
- Holy Christ
- get him drunk it’d be all right
None of the language in The Grapes of Wrath was as violent, degrading, or offensive as the language used by the two young boys in their play, yet I was the one being punished! I also went through every other book in the district’s approved reading curriculum to make my point.
When I got home after my first day back at school, I received a call from Scott Ellis of the union, telling me that Harold Ferret had once again stopped me from making an appearance before the school board. During our conversation I reported the disappearance of my classroom materials, the deleted grades, the lesson plans that weren’t being followed, and of student work being lost or destroyed. Finally, I told him that I’d been docked three days on my paycheck. The reason for the docked pay was never made clear to me.
…to be continued