Where’s the Justice for Those Who are Harassed and Disenfranchised, a.k.a. Teachers?

Posted: November 13, 2012 in From Student to Teacher
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When I was almost 20 years old I got pregnant.  Despite my father’s objection three years before to me going away to college (“The only thing happening at colleges is sex, drugs, and alcohol!”), I went away…but it looks like he was right.  Naturally, I was shunned by my super Catholic family for the duration of my pregnancy, but I persevered.

The father? Uh, yeah, he’s of the Anglo-Saxon persuasion…another reason to place me in the pen with the black sheep all over the world.   The ever-independent New Yorker, I pounded my chest (carefully) with conviction, and proceeded to finish my senior year of college, have a baby, snatch up my diploma and conquer the world.  I abandoned my “next step” options of The Peace Corp or Harvard’s graduate program, and prepared to become a single mom with a college degree.

Then, while recovering with a colicky newborn, my “baby daddy” had his sweet sister serve me with papers so that he could claim paternity of his son.  Knowing nothing about the legal system, I forged on ahead, and prepared to sit down in a judge’s chambers and have paternity and child support established.  I had made it clear that I wanted nothing from him when I told him I was pregnant and he responded with, “I hope you don’t expect me to marry you.”  The thought had never occurred to me.

In any case, he picked me up at a friend’s house where I was living temporarily and drove me to the judge’s office.  We sat down and I recall that she was an older lady.   I couldn’t understand why she was so hostile towards me.  After all, I wasn’t the plaintiff seeking paternity.  I never denied baby daddy visitation.  I was simply trying to learn how to care for a newborn.

It was a short gathering in the plush office of the judge.  She berated me, reprimanded me, and spent all six minutes we were seated before her telling me what a disgrace I was; how I took advantage of this upstanding pillar of the community and now I was trying to hurt him even further.

I had no clue what she was talking about so I sat there silently, reeling, but taking it all in.  After all, I had been taught to always be respectful to my elders.

At the conclusion of the brief but verbally violent meeting, she established the paternity, and set the child support at $16. per week, or $64. per month.  Ignorant as I was to the workings of child support and the law, I accepted that and couldn’t wait to get out of her office.  My fury, directed at my future husband, was in his cowardice that he never attempted to refute her tongue-lashing towards me. He sat there and never once notified her that the petition was at is provocation and that I had not done anything to harm him or his wealthy family in any way.

I should have learned my lesson then.  But no.  I learned three things that would change my life over the course of the next twenty or so years.  One: I am decidedly, incredibly, and inexplicably fertile.  We married after the second child and had two more after that.

Two:  He was a coward then and is still a coward today.  Hence: the divorce.

Three:  There is very little justice in the real world.  

Fast forward.

Pouring out of me right now is an anger so fierce, so huge that I am struggling to contain it.  All I can do is cry and I have done my fair share for the last hour.  I tried doing laundry, but that drudgery didn’t stop the tears.  Sitting on the potty, I cried out to God at the utter unfairness of it all.

Despite that indelibly unforgettable moment before the judge back in 1991, I still have faith in the justice system.  I know it’s broken, and or crooked, or both, but I believe in fairness and equality and fighting the good fight.  I have tried to do that in cases where it truly mattered, even though it may have appeared trivial to others.  When students who were in jeopardy of failing my class would fabricate things I said and I was called before my administrators to answer for my supposed crimes, I stood firm and with outrage and hurt feelings, I established my innocence.  Naturally, teachers are guilty until proven guiltier in this country, but I still believe in telling the truth.

See, I had the hardest year of my life last school year, as I have described in other posts, working for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina.  My health suffered, my family suffered, and I endured more harassment, bullying, and discrimination than I ever thought possible.  My fairy tale joy at being hired at one of the supposed best districts in the state shattered fairly quickly when the nightmare began.

So, after a great deal of soul-searching, I filed a grievance, which resulted in nothing, lost my job because I wouldn’t lie for the school system and continue to falsify grades, and filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The Feds.  Oohhh.  The big leagues.  I was intimidated, but I did it.  It’s hard to prove harassment and discrimination.  But I gave them all that I could.

And it wasn’t enough.  Today, I opened a letter from them telling me:

“The processing of your charge of employment discrimination in the above referenced matter has been completed.  Based upon its investigation and available evidence, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.  No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”

 

It sounds like a form letter.  My livelihood, my struggle, my tears, my sleepless nights, my health issues, my loss of viable employment in a career I dedicated years to, has been reduced to a form letter.  I lost precious years off my life span due to the unconscionable stress the daily assaults caused me.  And it all comes down to a form letter.

So, to all the teachers suffering or who have suffered harassment, threats, bullying, and discrimination, I know now why you don’t bother to complain, why you suffer in silence, why you go with the flow of an inefficient and corrupt system that fails the country every day, every year, with so many young minds.

To all the teachers who have endured what I have, and probably worse, I commiserate with you and join the ranks of the disenfranchised, the angry, and the tired.  If you have spoken up like I have and gotten nothing but a closed door, then we are all a part of the sisterhood of teachers who refused to do it anymore.  If you are Hispanic and educated and still have been treated like you are not intelligent enough, not organized enough, just not good enough to serve your students well, then we are a group that I am confident is steadily growing in this nation.

I may have lost this battle, but I will never, ever, ever, stop telling my story and revealing the daily abuses of teachers, the unethical fabrication of students educations, and how minority students are annually prevented from succeeding (unless they are minorities and athletes of course).

To Superintendent Tom Forcella, former principal Jesse Dingle, Kay Lawson-Demery, Joanne McClelland, of the distinguished Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School district, and others who have committed crimes against students, parents, and teachers, you have a higher power than the justice system to answer to and your day is coming.  I may not be around to witness it, but I believe that no good deed goes unpunished.  One day your lies will be exposed, and the scandal will erupt and be found to be even larger than the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.  Until then, I will keep my data filled with evidence.  I don’t know how people like you sleep at night.

 

 

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