Just two days ago, I posted about Susan Johnson, the South Lyon Community Schools teacher who was suspended for three days, two without pay, for playing a gay-themed song, "Same Love." [See post HERE] Well, Johnson is back at work, and her pay has been restored. But there is a bit more to the story.
See, apparently in Johnson’s district, the use of recorded material in class is covered by the staff handbook. It “requires that instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom, including YouTube clips, then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval."
So, Susan Johnson did not follow that protocol, and for that she does deserve a reprimand. But to suspend her, and without pay, was a bit of an overreach, I think. Which makes one wonder if the suspension wasn’t because she showed a clip without permission, or because of the content of the clip she showed?
Superintendent William Pearson has apologized if his decision to suspend Johnson offended anyone: "I am willing to not uphold the suspension, but the violation of the district practice regarding web-based clips and our expectations for instructions previewing materials under this will remain in writing."
Jim Brennan, the president of the South Lyon Education Association, which represents the district's teachers, said he supports members' efforts to foster tolerance and understanding: "We also know that teachers need to follow administrative policies and, yet, we feel the district's initial response, a two-day unpaid suspension, to one of our members showing a video clip without submitting the required form, was excessive. After voicing our concerns, we are pleased that the district reconsidered, and chose to rescind the two-day unpaid suspension. We look forward to meeting with the district to come up with a final resolution."
There are some who, while they feel the clip of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song was worthy of being shown in class, think the district backed down because the ACLU was prepared to get involved, and the school felt threatened. But, again, the ACLU would not have gotten involved if the suspension was for breaking protocol, and not because one student found the clip offensive and complained about it. In reality, Susan Johnson deserved some sort of reprimand for not following procedure, but not such a severe punishment.
The ACLU will continue scrutinizing the situation because many students and parents feel that the original suspension was a form of bullying Johnson for the pro-marriage equality song clip, but Superintendent Pearson said, in another statement, that wasn’t the case: "If students believe this discipline is a form of bullying, will encourage bullying, or most importantly, causes any member of our school community to feel they do not belong, then I have sent the wrong message and must correct that. We want all students to feel they belong and that they are valued, and our policies and procedures must support this."
Understood. But the district needs to reevaluate their policies and then make it clear, if a teacher violates those policies, what the punishment might be. The punishment should fit the crime, and if Susan Johnson was merely guilty of not filing the proper paperwork to show the “Same Love” clip in class, then the punishment was far too severe.