CPS teachers who participated in General Iron protests with students given warning

General Iron was expected to be moved from Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side

ByDiane Pathieu and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Thursday, July 28, 2022
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CPS officials have said the teachers violated several transportation and school credit policies in their efforts to teach kids about the issues.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two Chicago Public School teachers will keep their jobs after facing possible termination for protesting the move of a scrapyard to the Southeast Side.

The Board of Education voted Wednesday to reject the district's recommendation to fire two George Washington High School teachers after they took part in protests and were joined by their students. They were given a warning instead.

The teachers were protesting the move of scrapyard company General Iron from Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side, a planned move that was rejected.

CPS officials argued the teachers violated several transportation and school credit policies in their efforts to teach kids about the issues.

RELATED: General Iron Chicago: Activists claim victory after scrapyard's move to Southeast Side halted

But the teachers claim this is retaliation for their stance against the city.

"How can CPS say that they want the curriculum to be relevant to students, that they want teachers to support students to become civically engaged to participate in democracy and become self-advocates for themselves and their community when this is how CPS responds," CPS teacher Lauren Bianchi said.

CPS also said an investigation found the teachers failed to follow the district's ethics code and volunteer policy.

In a statement, a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said:

"Chicago Public Schools (CPS) recognizes that schools are often the first civic institutions students experience as community members, and it is critically important that our educators demonstrate the highest ethical and institutional standards while fostering civic engagement and a shared purpose in our school communities. Our students deserve no less, especially as they develop their passion and voice around causes that inspire them to become actively involved in a democratic society.

"The actions of two probationary teachers at George Washington High School exhibited disregard of CPS safety rules and procedures and repeated instances of poor judgment and bias in their instructional roles and in their faculty advisor roles. An investigation uncovered several significant policy violations by the teachers, including violation of safety policies concerning the transportation of students. Consequently, the Board of Education will consider at tomorrow's board meeting whether their employment should continue."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a written statement: "A fundamental responsibility of CPS is to safeguard the children whose families entrust CPS with their precious children. CPS must hold everyone in the school community accountable to follow the rules when it comes to student safety. The Board considered a matter today involving allegations of serious rules violations and rendered a decision. This matter is now closed."

Full Statement from Chicago Board of Education

The Chicago Board of Education today considered two dismissal cases brought against probationary teachers from Washington High School. These cases were brought to the Board after a thorough investigation found that there had been several instances of poor judgment demonstrated by these teachers in their instructional and advisory roles, as well as disregard for CPS safety policy, particularly with regard to the transportation of students. After considering the two cases, the Board of Education voted not to dismiss these teachers and instead elected to issue a warning to each about their actions and behavior.

One of our greatest responsibilities as educators is to help our young people find their voice, advocate for what inspires them, and become active members of their communities. While promoting civic engagement in our schools is a top priority for CPS, it must be done in accordance with the District's policies and relevant law in order to protect student safety and ensure that students are not treated differently based on their willingness to participate in political activities.

We hope that the warnings directed by the Board of Education today will not only address the behavior of these teachers but ensure that promoting civic engagement among school communities is done appropriately and with due regard for student safety.

The Board further warned both teachers that their failure to follow the directives will result in discipline up to and including dismissal.