UPDATE: The tentative decision in this matter has been released on the evening of July 9, 2009. Heather Hargett, Ben Smith and Steve Cooper have been ordered to answer on or before July 24, 2009 deposition questions that they refused to answer on May 26, 27 and 28, 2009.
Photo: Mount Miguel student Jade Ray
Here's a photo of Heather Hargett.
Note to the Grossmont Union High School District board and Heather Hargett:
You need to do some thinking about three things: respect for all students, race, and how these two things affect student achievement. Take responsibility. Don't just leave the decision-making up to SDCOE-JPA's lawyers.
If think this case is a distraction to the work of education, they are wrong. The GUHSD boarde should read about how the testing gap between white and black students was all but eliminated when Obama at peak. How students feels about themselves directly affects their performance.
It's uncouth and unprofessional for a teacher to lead the class in ridiculing a fourteen-year-old girl for being "ugly". But this case wasn't just any teacher and any student. If a black woman had said the same words to Jade, it would not have had the same impact. I notice that Heather Hargett is very blond. Here's a photo of Heather Hargett. If her hair color has been chemically enhanced, I have to wonder if Hargett thinks blond is pretty and dark is not so pretty. I have to wonder if she revealed more of herself than she intended. I can understand why Jade never went back to Mount Miguel High School. She felt like Aracely Carvalho who was ejected from a Pennsylvania swim club, which later reversed its decision. She "doesn't want people to look at her" with the same contempt ever again in her life.
I have learned one thing as I have studied court cases in California schools. An award-winning music teacher can get away with just about anything. One such teacher got away with physically assaulting a student for being out of uniform at the Rose Parade. Schools seem to care about appearances more than they care about what students are learning.
A recent San Diego Union Tribune article about a high school girl who is suing a teacher for kicking her and telling her to leave the room because she was too ugly to deliver singing telegrams on Valentine's Day brought on an onslaught of comments from people defending the teacher.
I believe that many teachers need a more positive attitude toward children in general. Just because a teacher has a few teacher's pets isn't good enough. Every child should be treated with respect.
Here are some snippets of the pro-teacher comments that were posted regarding Leonel Sanchez' story about teacher Heather Hargett and student Jade Ray of Grossmont Union High School District. The consensus of these people seems to be that there are no abusive teachers, because if there were the school would have done something about it:
"With 50 witnesses and 5 months passed, I have to suspect this would have come out a long time ago if the story was as outrageous as the student is claiming..."
"The story seems pretty un-believable really. It will be interesting for sure when the facts really come out. With so many eye witnesses, I can hardly believe that the child would dare make something up but who knows in this day and age..."
"...So she was embarrassed, so what- who is high school wasnt?"
"...The girl suing should be counter sued and if she is givin money, it should only go to fix her "ugly" attribute..."
"Freddieboy, if that were my WIFE on the receiving end of a false complaint that could ruin her career, that kid AND her parent(s) would be getting a lot more than a lawsuit."
[Note from Blogger: Don't worry. If schools fired teachers for being hostile and disrespectful, there would be a teacher-shortage of huge proportions. That won't happen.]
On the other hand, two people supported the student:
"I had a high school physics teacher who always singled me out to embarrass me in front of the class... I finally walked out when one time he said, "gosh, your parents must be really ashamed."... I hope the kid wins."
"The teacher should have been Fired and the School Board should've addressed the situation with her parents promptly to ensure she went back to that school. This is a story of just a poor educational system."
[Blogger's note: I think ALL teachers need to be supported more--and challenged more--to help them behave maturely in the classroom. I know there are lots of teachers who are more abusive than this one. This situation sounds familiar to me; a lot of teachers get socialized into girl-clique attitudes. The cliques form on teaching staffs and even in classrooms. This sounds like a typical "mean girls" moment. I'll bet there were sycophant students who laughed with glee when the girl was (literally) kicked out.
Maura's advice to Heather Hargett: We've come a long way in race relations, but there's plenty of sensitivity and actual racism today, so it might be a good idea not to call your black students "ugly". You're in a particularly bad position, being blond and attractive. It's not a big stretch for us to imagine that you really do believe that you're prettier than Jade. Just for the record, you're not.]
Here's the court calendar information for this case:
07/10/09 10:00AM C-63 CV Vargas, Luis R. Motion Hearing 37-2008-00087380-CU-NP-CTL D)Heather Hargett Daniel R. Shinoff