In Illinois, somebody goofed:

Our local news has recently been covering the story of a substitute school teacher who showed a fourth grade classroom a movie about slavery. The movie, “The Middle Passage,” belonged to the fourth grade classroom’s regular teacher, and the teacher left a note asking the sub to show it while she was out. The movie, not previously screened by any school administrator, was marked, “adult content, violence and nudity,” and depicted the appalling sea voyage of slaves on a trading vessel from Africa. The storyline included suicide, rape, and throwing dead bodies to the sharks.

It’s fair to say that when parents caught wind of the movie, all hell broke loose. The school district’s co-superintendents apologized for the movie, quickly put new media policies in place, and fired the substitute teacher.

I guess I am beginning to think of myself as a “substitute teacher”, because my immediate response was… wait, fired the substitute?! They just did what they were told! Granted, if I were in that situation, there is a good chance that I would stop it and go talk to somebody. But there’s not exactly a protocol for that since you can be fired for leaving the kids alone and I might be too stunned to figure out a way around that (presumably sending a kid to get somebody from the office over there). Maybe that district, unlike Redstone, has training that deals with the issue of depictions of rape on a teacher-approved movie.

Which is the other part. The real culpability here lies with the teachers that assigned the movie. It turned out that there was more than one. Two substitutes showed the movie to their respective classes. A third non-sub started it but stopped it when they realized that it was inappropriate. Anyhow, substitute teachers assume that the regular teachers know what they’re doing. We have to. So if anyone should be fired, it shouldn’t be the person getting $80 a day a couple days a week. It should be the person who decided that this movie was okay without watching it, despite the warning label and despite the fact that it’s HBO. Of course, unless you were a prostitute, there are rules in place to make firing a teacher difficult. Easier to fire the schlub.

Well, apparently they reconsidered and the sub was allowed back into the classroom. I haven’t read anything about whether the teachers were disciplined in any way. And to be honest, I wouldn’t exactly be outraged if they weren’t. Errors in judgment happen. Putting together a district policy is probably the right answer to this. But if they’re not going to fire the teacher, they sure shouldn’t fire the person doing what the teacher told them to. So they got that much right.


Category: School

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One Response to Substitute Teacher Solidarity

  1. Mike Hunt says:

    In my district it hit the fan when an enterprising student switched tapes with one that had an adult movie scene in the middle. The parents were very very upset, but I felt they over-reacted because the sub immediately shut the movie off. I mean, what else do you want them to do? But, as I have stated before, the American pasttime isn’t baseball, it is bitching.

    On a somewhat related note, in freshman English we watched the Zeffireli version of Romeo and Juliet. For those who haven’t seen it, there is some tasteful nudity in it. No one got permission from our parents, and no one complained. I thought it was funny that our teacher left the room during the nude scene. She didn’t make a big production about it; she just went to go talk to the teacher next door for a minute.

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