Friday, February 7, 2014

Crenshaw HIgh School Choir Director Held In 'Teacher Jail'

The Crenshaw High School community has come to the defense of a popular teacher who was recently removed from the classroom.

Iris Stevenson is a 30 year choir teacher at the school who was removed for reasons unknown by Los Angeles Unified School District officials.

About 100 people gathered outside of Crenshaw High School this morning to call for her reinstatement.

KPFK Reporter Shawn Raymundo has more on this morning’s rally.

The Los Angeles Unified School District released a vague statement to quell community concerns as to why it reassigned Crenshaw High School’s Elite Choir Director Iris Stevenson.

The district said the case is a personnel matter and it is prohibited from releasing specific details about why it temporarily removed the 30-year choir instructor from her classroom in mid-December.

The LAUSD says its investigation of Stevenson could take months because it was a complex issue.

Vanity Brown is an organizer with Team Iris Stevenson, a group of community supporters formed to defend the teacher. She says Stevenson has yet to be told why she was reassigned despite district assertions that they made the reasons clear to her.

Stevenson is still considered a full-time employee of the school district and will receive her regular pay, including benefits, while a substitute instructor is put in charge of the classroom during the investigation.

Members of the Crenshaw community including teachers, students and parents have publically supported Stevenson by holding protests and demonstrations outside of Crenshaw High School demanding she be reinstated.

Stevenson is required to report to a LAUSD office that Brown refers to as a “teacher jail.” Brown says Stevenson sits at a cubicle all day and keeps herself busy by reading books.

Brown says teacher reassignment is supposed to last a minimum of 120 days but the majority of teachers who find themselves in so-called teacher jails or district offices often end up staying there for years or retire before they are reinstated and their investigation concluded.

Congress of Racial Equality of California Co-founder and Vice Chairman Celes King IV, led a protest with about 100 others outside of the high school. He says the LAUSD press release is misleading and that Stevenson is unlikely to actually return as a teacher.

Brown took part in a trip to France and Washington DC with Stevenson, three students, and Crenshaw High alumni from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12. During the trip, the group performed in front of President Barack Obama and the First Lady.

Upon her return to the school on Dec. 13 Stevenson was notified by the district that she would be temporarily reassigned upon further notice.

Brown says she suspects the LAUSD has been trying to push Stevenson out of her teaching position since last summer. She says a sign marking the Iris Stevenson Music Wing, an area of the music department dedicated to the popular teacher in 2001, was removed.

According to the press release, the district has worked to restore Stevenson’s name back on the building.