Target: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly
Goal: Stop using cyber-bullying in your campaign speeches as a way to fire bad teachers
It’s no secret that the state of public education in the U.S. is not in the best shape, and politicians everywhere are trying to decide on how to repair it. However, one of California’s gubernatorial candidates, Tim Donnelly, does not have the right idea. As a part of his 2014 campaign, he’s put education reform at the forefront, and recently went on the radio with his controversial new plan. On KQED radio station, he stated, “I’m going to raise a half-million dollars. I’m going to hold a press conference and tell them, ‘tell me the worst teacher. I want the worst teacher story.’ … We’ll have thousands of people send in videos.” After reviewing all of the tapes and evidence, he claims that he is going to raise $500,000, and spend half in the lengthy and costly battle to fire the teacher he deems as “California’s worst”. The other half he will use sending “California’s best teacher” traveling around the state, giving others teaching advice.
In the State of California, rules vary a bit from district to district, but statewide, the California Teachers Association is a strong union that ensures that teachers have due process rights, and ensures that teachers can’t be fired without due cause. As a result, firing a teacher is a very long and expensive process. The state says that lawyer fees can cost up to $100,000 just for the districts half, and if they lose, they must pay the teacher’s lawyer fees as well. Also, even one incident by a tenured teacher doesn’t constitute firing. There must be lengthy documentation of repeated, severe offenses before a firing can even be considered a sure-thing. If not, the districts may just decide that spending the money associated with attempting to fire the teacher may not be worth it without sufficient proof.
While the ability to fire bad teachers is clearly a problem in California, Donnelly’s solution of having kids video-taping their teachers and then sending in “proof” to find the bad ones is a disastrous scenario. Yes, bad teachers do exist, but the basic idea of a politician, someone who should be setting a good example for our nation’s children, telling students it is okay to be lying in wait, scrutinizing their teachers every movements, hoping to “catch” them doing anything inappropriate and video tape it, is completely wrong. Teachers are people too, and anything can be taken out of context. Great people can be made to look terrible if the wrong phrase is used at the wrong time. Not to mention the fact that with technology these days, any video tape or pictures can easily be edited by the likes of Photoshop.
This solution of Tim Donnelly’s is basically a form of cyber-bullying, and it has the potential to ruin potentially innocent teachers’ careers and lives. How many stories have you read in the news this year of teenagers who ended up committing suicide after they felt as though their entire world had seen them at their most vulnerable due photos or videos were passed around in cyber-bullying incidents? Cyber-bullying is a real problem in today’s world, and it doesn’t need to be instigated by a politician.
The culture of respect for teachers in America over the past 30 years has completely shifted. A few generations ago, teachers we not questioned or blamed for children’s bad grades. Now, it seems like everything is the teacher’s fault. A gubernatorial candidate going on a witch hunt is not the kind of example any politician or adult should be setting for today’s children, and another way to solve California’s educational problems needs to be found.
Dear Assemblyman Tim Donnelly,
I understand that as a part of your 2014 campaign for Governor of the State of California, you’ve decided to highlight educational reform as one highlight of your campaign. Educational reform in California is much needed, and I understand that one main problem that you have is that it is very difficult to fire bad teachers. I, too, read stories of teachers who have even committed misdemeanors, but it was either too expensive or too lengthy of a process to fire these teachers. This situation is appalling, and a solution needs to be found.
However, the solution that you recently stated in your radio interview with KQED would have disastrous consequences. You stated that you want students to send in videos and photos of teachers behaving badly, in order to have some type of competition for the worst teacher, and then you would personally fund the process to fire this person. You must know that this is truly a form of cyber-bullying. Asking students to secretly record their teachers in a direct attempt to discredit them is neither moral nor can be trusted as accurate and valid. Many students, especially in the junior high and high school years simply do not like school, nor their teachers. Giving them ‘carte blanche’ to attempt to destroy a disliked teachers career is completely appalling. Many students would be thrilled to spend time on attempting to provoke a teacher for an inappropriate reaction, taking quotes or recordings out of context, or even going as far as to Photoshop ‘evidence’ that they have against an unpopular teacher.
Please re-think this idea, and try to find another solution for making teachers’ dismissals easier in California. Using this strategy in your campaign is dangerous and sets a very bad example for our nation’s children. Teachers should be respected and treated with dignity, and politicians should set that example instead of attempting to publicly discredit them as part of a campaign strategy.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Makingadifference.com