Later that day an announcement came over the intercom instructing the faculty to go to the assembly room for pictures. Oh, no! I looked awful. I’d lost weight and stress had caused my hair to fall out. Yet, I had no choice. I was expected to sit there and pretend that I was happy—even though my life was in shambles.
When I got back to my classroom I sent an e-mail to Victor Baird, Harold Ferret, and Clark Messenger (fictitious names). I told them that I was missing Big Books for ten students and stressed the importance of finding them. In response Victor Baird e-mailed that he had called the substitute, who told him that he and Jack Ramsey (fictitious name) had placed all the student Big Books in storage. No one seemed to be able to find them. Baird assured me they were still looking for them and would let me know as soon as the books were found. We later discovered that Jack and Victor knew where everything was all along. In fact, Baird had ordered Jack to clean out my classroom and hide all the materials. Thankfully for some students, a few of the books did reappear.
On March 11th I received a letter telling me that I’d been suspended for three days without pay. This was for “retaliation and insubordination” and that a disciplinary letter had been placed in my personnel file. I was to return to work on March 17.
That evening Montana State Union Representative Scott Ellie ( fictitious name) and Attorney Jerry Halperin (fictitious name) accompanied me to what became a three-hour hearing. Scott and I sat in silence, taking notes, while Jerry spoke on my behalf. We weren’t even given an opportunity to speak to the letter that had been the basis of the complaints. Instead the district issued new allegations, none of which I’d been told about before the meeting. Most appalling were the comments, made at the meeting, by several of the trustees.
- Chairman of the board, said, “Hell, Jerry, this isn’t Nazi Germany and we’re not crucifying the Jews.”
- A female trustee suggested, “Maybe it’s hormonal.”
- Another trustee said, “You need to get the love back.”
These statements infuriated me. Both my lawyer and the union told me to keep quiet and say nothing. All I could do was sit there and let them accuse me of things I hadn’t done or said. I wasn’t even allowed to roll my eyes in disgust as they spewed lie after lie. The silence was eating at me. “Where are my accusers? Where are they? If they want me out of here, if they complained, why aren’t they here? I did nothing wrong, I did nothing wrong. It’s Baird! It’s Ferret! It’s Coffey! They are lying. I don’t understand.”
Their comments echoed the words of Baird and Ferret. Each condemned me without any attempt to learn the truth. None of them had ever been in my classroom, so they had no knowledge of my teaching ability. They had never observed me interact with my students. How could they say I needed to “get the love back” when I had excellent relationships with most of my students? It was clear that they were being used. They were rubber-stamping every action taken by the administration.
…to be continued