Mama Madison: Science or study hall?

What would you do if your child's teacher had been dismissed but then back in the classroom?

This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Harris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.

I am not going to use this space to question the legal ruling. Yes, his choice to open personal emails with smutty content while on school grounds using a district email address was an extremely poor decision -- there's no question about that. But I just don't know enough about employment law (actually, I know next to nothing about employment law), arbitration, or Supreme Court decisions to have a qualified opinion on whether or not he should have lost his job in the first place, or if he should have been reinstated.

I do though have sympathy for the parents who may feel uneasy about having their child in Mr. Harris' class. And I'm sure there may be students who feel very uneasy as well, given the media attention this story has received. But the district has been clear. None of the 125 students assigned to Harris' classes will be allowed to transfer out into a different section.

But I'll be honest, based on what I've read about the Harris case, I don't feel that he is going to pose any sort of threat to any of the students in his class. And the school's stated plan to have a para-educator in the class for at least two weeks, coupled with the fact that a middle school is always swimming with responsible adults, would probably be more than enough to let me rest easy if Harris was going to be my child's teacher this semester.

And I certainly wouldn't allow my kid to pick the one very strange choice the school is offering to parents who absolutely don't want their child in Harris' class: the option to substitute a study hall. According to district superintendent Don Johnson, the students who elect this option won't get credit for the study hall, nor will they get any sort of grade or credit for seventh grade science. They'll still, though, be promoted to eighth grade.

Really? The district is giving seventh-grade students the option to completely opt out of one of the most important core academic areas of study? Last year in seventh grade science my son learned to develop a hypothesis, plan an investigation and make inferences based on data he collected and organized. It bothers me there are kids that might miss out on a whole semester of these kinds of learning opportunities based on what, seems to this outsider, is fear gone awry.

I guess it's easy for me to say this. As far as I know none of my kids' teachers has anything like this on his or her record. So I'd love to hear from other parents on this issue, especially those who do, or have potential to have, Harris as their child's teacher.

Other parents, how would you feel if your child was assigned to Mr. Harris' class? Would you "Keep Calm and Carry On"? Or would you feel that dropping seventh grade science was the more prudent option?

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