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June 4, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Seattle teacher may face discipline in controversy over unit on race

A Seattle teacher at the center of a controversy about how he teaches high-school students about race may face disciplinary action as the result of a second complaint against him.

The same family filed both complaints. In the first, the parents and student alleged that Jon Greenberg’s six-week unit on race and privilege created an intimidating environment for some of his students at the Center School, a small, alternative high school located in downtown Seattle.  Later they alleged that Greenberg retaliated against the student as a result of the first complaint.

The district agreed with the first allegation, and ordered Greenberg to change the way he was teaching the unit.  The second probe, conducted by an outside investigator, concluded that Greenberg had not retaliated against the student.  But the investigator also said Greenberg had violated the district’s harassment, intimidation or bullying policy by allowing other students to distribute a petition supporting Greenberg during class while the complaining student was present.

In March, Greenberg defended the way he taught the unit, saying he was convinced his students could handle frank discussions about race and that “one family’s complaint should not have led to all this.”

Many students, parents and teachers have rallied in support of Greenberg and the race unit, and plan to attend tomorrow’s school board meeting to protest what they’ve heard — that Greenberg is being transferred to another school.

The district won’t comment on whether Greenberg has been transferred, saying that’s a personnel issue.  But district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said Superintendent Jose Banda is considering disciplining him.

While the district believes that teaching about social justice issues is important, Wippel said, “it is also important that these subjects be taught in ways that are age-appropriate and non-threatening.”

Comments | More in Education | Topics: Center School, Jon Greenberg, Race

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