Seattle Public Schools released more details Wednesday about why a Center School teacher who taught about racial issues will be transferred to a middle school next year.
High school teacher Jon Greenberg’s race and social justice class came under district scrutiny earlier this year when frank discussions in his class prompted a student’s parents to file a complaint. The parents and student claimed his class created an intimidating educational environment. The school district dealt with that complaint by banning the “Courageous Conversations” discussion method he used in class.
The school district decided to transfer Greenberg to Hamilton International Middle School next school year because its investigation found he had harassed the student involved in that complaint after the curriculum change.
The district’s investigation report says Greenberg had an administrative secretary cover for him while a petition to continue the Courageous Conversations method in class was circulated among students. At that point, the student involved in the complaint about his curriculum believed most students didn’t know it was her parents who had complained.
But she, identified in the report as Student A, felt pressured to sign the petition or out herself as the cause of the controversy when the petition was allowed to be passed out in class.
“Student A stated that the petition was not anonymous,” the report said. “The petition listed your name, signature, e-mail and phone number.”
The student told the district that Greenberg had also sent out an e-mail about the initial complaint to all parents and students except her family.
The district’s human-resource investigator recommended that Greenberg be suspended for two days and that he be transferred to another school.
“You knew or should have known that this behavior would cause Student A to feel threatened and intimidated,” wrote Paul Apostle, assistant superintendent of human resources, in a letter to Greenberg.
Apostle also concluded Greenberg’s actions showed he had not heeded Superintendent Jose Banda’s warning in a February letter: “ … aggressively targeting individual students or allowing other students to aggressively target students in a way that makes them feel threatened or intimidated is not allowed.”
More than a hundred students, parents and teachers have pressured the school district to let Greenberg stay at Center School, where he has taught since the school’s inception. But, so far, Banda has not budged on the decision to transfer him to another school. If the disciplinary action sticks, this will be Greenberg’s last week teaching at Center School.