Sunday, March 03, 2013

Texas Teen Suing School District After She Was Punished for Not Reciting Mexican National Anthem in Class‏

Brenda Brinsdon, interviewed by Fox News in 2011, is suing her Texas school district after she said she was punished for refusing to recite the Mexican national anthem pledge of allegiance in class.

A Texas high school student has filed suit against her school district, claiming she was punished for refusing to recite the Mexican national anthem and pledge of allegiance as part of a Spanish class assignment.

Brenda Brinsdon, then 15, told TheBlaze exclusively in 2011 that students in her intermediate Spanish class were instructed to recite the Mexican anthem and pledge individually in front of their peers at Achieve Early College High School in McAllen, Texas. Brinsdon refused, telling TheBlaze at the time that “Reciting pledges to Mexico and being loyal to it has nothing to do with learning Spanish.” She also provided TheBlaze with video she recorded of students taking part in the assignment.

As an alternative task to reciting the pledge and anthem, she was assigned an essay on the history of the Mexican revolution — an assignment for which she received a failing grade.

According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court Wednesday, Brinsdon was not allowed to return to the Spanish class after her story received media coverage. She was made to sit in the office each day instead of attend class and ultimately failed the course.

She is suing the McAllen Independent School District, principal Yvette Cavazos and teacher Reyna Santos for violating her constitutional right to freedom of speech and equal protection under the law — according to the suit, the district has a policy to excuse students from saying the American pledge of allegiance if they object, but not if they oppose pledging to another country.

“The plaintiff has been punished for being a patriotic American,” attorney Erin Mersino told TheBlaze Thursday. Mersino is with the Thomas More Law Center, which filed the suit on the Brinsdon family’s behalf. “She has been punished for not pledging her loyalty to a different country which used to be determined to be treason, now a person is given an alternative assignment and given a failing grade and is kicked out of class for doing so.”

Mersino said they want a judgement from the court saying the school district was wrong and preventing something similar from happening to another student. Brinsdon herself is half-Mexican, with an American father and a mother who immigrated to the U.S. She still attends the school as a junior.

“This truly is a case about a teenager who’s a patriot, who is a true American,” Mersino said. “She did the right thing by following her conscience and not doing what her teacher was compelling her to do by pledging her loyalty to a different country to which she is not loyal.”

A representative from the McAllen Independent School District did not immediately return a request for comment from TheBlaze.

In 2011, a district spokesman defended the pledge assignment, telling TheBlaze it was “simply spreading the culture of another country.”


Duncan the liar

The descriptions of the post-sequester landscape that have been coming out of the Obama Administration have been alarming, specific--and, in at least some cases, hyped.

“There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

When he was pressed in a White House briefing Wednesday to come up with an example, Duncan named a single county in West Virginia and acknowledged, “whether it’s all sequester-related, I don’t know.”

And, as it turns out, it isn’t.

Officials in Kanawha County, West Virginia say that the “transfer notices” sent to at least 104 educators had more to do with a separate matter that involves a change in the way West Virginia allocates federal dollars designated for poor children.

The transfer notices are required by state law and give teachers a warning that they may be moved to a different position next school year. They don’t necessarily mean a teacher has been laid off, said Pam Padon, director of federal programs and Title 1 for the Kanawha County public schools. “It’s not like we’re cutting people’s jobs at this point.”

She said those 104 notices will ultimately result in the elimination of about five to six teaching jobs, which were likely to be cut regardless of the sequester.

“The major impact is not so much sequestration,” she said. “Those five or six jobs would already be gone regardless of sequestration.”

In addition, the county notified all of its Head Start teachers that they may be out of a job, not because of sequestration, but because the Obama administration had recently labeled the Kanawha County program “deficient”, a designation that requires it to compete for funding instead of getting an automatic renewal.

The county is assuming that it will not operate a Head Start program next year, one county official said, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk about the program.


Teacher at £13,000-a-year British girls' school was fired after taking hundreds of pictures on school trip using his OWN camera

British photography phobia again.  And he 'failed to follow procedure.'  How awful!

A respected teacher at a prestigious £13,000 pounds-a-year girls' school was sacked for taking hundreds of photographs of a school trip on his own camera, a tribunal heard today.

Christopher Hammond, long-standing head of German at the elite Abbey School, was dismissed because he used his own camera to take the pictures rather than following guidelines to use a school-owned device or memory card.

While none of the content of the images was said to be indecent, Mr Hammond was dismissed following the episode as he had 'failed to follow procedure.'

The camera enthusiast deliberately flouted well-known school rules prohibiting such conduct despite previous warnings about his behaviour, the headteacher who dismissed him claimed.

Mr Hammond today took his case for unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and age discrimination against the Abbey School, Reading, Berkshire, to an employment tribunal.

The school denies the claims. The tribunal heard how Hammond joined the independent school in September 2000 and was dismissed on May 20 2011.

As the head of the German languages department he was responsible for organising trips to the European country and also co-ordinated exchange visits with German students.

Mr Hammond also ran the school's Duke of Edinburgh award scheme participation and would accompany pupils on expeditions, often in sole charge of groups, the tribunal was told.

It was alleged that during a week-long trip to Germany in April 2011 he took 870 photographs of pupils, documenting the trip.

Abbey School headmistress Barbara Stanley told the tribunal that safeguarding pupils' personal data was paramount and Mr Hammond's conduct merited dismissal.

Barrister Oliver Hyams, representing Mr Hammond, described the former Abbey School teacher as a keen amateur photographer who had  'come quite late to the revolution in digital photography,' adding: 'He was an enthusiast about Germany and going there on trips, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, teaching and photography.'

He also said Mr Hammond could appear set in his ways or old-fashioned.

Headteacher Mrs Stanley, who qualified as a teacher in 1973, said that schools had to take 'the utmost care' in safeguarding information about pupils.

In her evidence to the tribunal in Reading, Berkshire, she said: 'As information technology - digital cameras, the internet and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter - has evolved, it has become far easier for information such as photographs and videos to be shared.

'As a result, schools must now do everything within their power to ensure that personal data about pupils - including, for example, photographs - are used, stored and transmitted appropriately.'

The school has a strict ICT policy for staff which is kept under regular review by deputy head Kathryn Macaulay, said Mrs Stanley, referring to Department for Education guidance stating that photographs taken of pupils for school purposes must be taken and stored on school-owned equipment and never by teachers' own equipment.

Mrs Stanley, who has been a headteacher for the last 18 years with 11 of those at The Abbey, said she had suspended Mr Hammond during a phone call on May 4 2011.

On the same day she sent a letter to Mr Hammond detailing the allegations against him, which were that he had breached school policies and refused to follow an instruction from his line manager by carrying on taking pictures when told not to.

She also contacted the police on the advice of the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), she said.

Just over a week later, on May 12 2011, Mrs Stanley said she met with Mr Hammond and a trade union representative acting on his behalf.

'There was virtually no factual dispute,' said Mrs Stanley, a former geography teacher. He accepted that he had been provided with a school camera for use on the trip.

'When asked, by his own representative, why he had not used it, he said that he had not brought it with him.

'He accepted that he had taken pictures of pupils on his own camera. He accepted that this was in direct contravention of the school's policies.

'He accepted that he was aware of the policy, having received updated safeguarding training less than a week before the incident. He accepted that he had downloaded these photographs onto his personal computer.

'He accepted that he had refused to follow Mrs Byrne's instruction to stop taking photographs.

'He accepted that he had breached the acceptable use policy but said he did not see anything wrong with using his own camera.'

Mrs Stanley said she thought 'long and hard' before dismissing Mr Hammond, adding: 'I bore in mind that the security and welfare of our pupils is our prime responsibility.'

The incident on the school trip in April 2011 was 'not the first or even second incident of this sort,' said Mrs Stanley.

'I consider that it would have been disproportionate to dismiss without giving the claimant a chance to demonstrate that he could follow the policy.

'However, at the time of his dismissal the claimant had been warned on about five occasions not to take photos of school pupils on his own camera over a 12-month period.

'This was despite the fact that the claimant was not only given a school camera to use but knew that all staff had been offered the option of a school memory card for his or her own camera.

'The claimant was warned formally in a meeting with his NASUWT rep on July 5 2010 and again following a disciplinary hearing in December 2010, when he was warned that further incidents could lead to dismissal.'

Mr Hammond had received training on child protection and safeguarding, she said, with the last session on April 8 2011 - less than a week before the trip which resulted in his sacking on grounds of gross misconduct.

Mrs Stanley added: 'I accept that it is unlikely that he personally would use these photos to cause harm but that is not the point.'

She said Mr Hammond's actions 'made it impossible for us ever to be completely sure he was suitable to work with children', prompting the school to alert the LADO.

She also said Mr Hammond had been receiving support as a teacher for several years and had displayed a 'flagrant failure to meet and sustain his targets' in the classroom.

'Many parents had become concerned and a selection of parental complaint letters and emails were submitted,' she added.

Mr Hyams told the tribunal Mr Hammond had been a keen photographer for 10 years at the time of the incident.  Pictures he had taken were even used by the school in publicity material, he said.

Mr Hammond had been provided with a camera from the school as well as an SD memory card and a USB card reader in advance of the trip, said Mr Hyams.

The equipment meant that any photographs taken using the camera could be downloaded onto any computer rather than just school machines, meaning the rules made 'no sense in practical terms,' Mr Hyams told Mrs Stanley.

She replied: 'It's because not everybody does act honourably that you have to have so many rules and regulations.'

Despite this, Mrs Stanley admitted she had given Mr Hammond permission to take photographs of a school trip on his own camera when they were both on a visit to Christmas markets in Aachen in 2010.

She told the tribunal: 'We were colleagues on a trip where I was trying to support him. I was there all the time he was with the girls, therefore I knew where the photographs were.'

Mrs Stanley added: 'We went through what he should have done and why he should have done it and I told him what he should do next time.'

Wearing a smart grey suit over a red jumper and a white shirt with a blue tie, bespectacled Mr Hammond of Canterbury, Kent, looked calm as he listened intently to the proceedings.

The Abbey School is a top independent day school for girls with more than 1,000 pupils aged between three years and 18 years old and is based in Kendrick Road, Reading, Berkshire.

A total of around 250 staff are employed at the institution.

The school, which was founded in 1887 and named after the previous school at The Abbey Gateway in Reading where Pride and Prejudice novelist Jane Austen had been a pupil, was ranked 57th in The Sunday Times top independent schools 2012.

Annual fees at the school cost up to £13,290 pounds.

The employment tribunal hearing in Reading, Berkshire continues before judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto and is scheduled to last for seven days.


1 comment:

Alan A said...

He took pictures that were decent, even used by the school for publicity purposes?? This Head teacher seems to me to have admitted why she went after him; she did not like how he taught, and was not able to sack him for that. So, even though she had connived with him previously to permit the taking of photos on non-school equipment, she sacked him this time for the same thing. What sort of leadership is that?

Got to be unfair dismissal, surely?