Skip to comments.Facing unruly students, teacher goes to court
Posted on 10/21/2003 4:47:27 AM PDT by Sub-Driver
Facing unruly students, teacher goes to court David Pitone, in his first week of teaching, sent them to the principal's office. They were sent back. He seeks a court order. By Susan Snyder Inquirer Staff Writer
During his first week as a new teacher this month, David Pitone was unable to handle the unruly students in his computer science class, so he sent them to the principal's office for discipline.
But officials at Audenried High School in South Philadelphia sent the students right back and told Pitone he had not followed proper disciplinary procedures.
Now, Pitone, 40, has taken the unusual step of turning to the courts for help. Pitone, who also happens to have a law degree, is a former computer engineer who is part of a special program that places professionals from other fields in teaching jobs while they get their teaching certificates.
In papers filed yesterday in Common Pleas Court, Pitone, who has taught only 21/2 days, is seeking an emergency court order that would temporarily allow him to eject students who he said cursed at and threatened him, while he seeks permission to do so through the district's grievance system.
"To me, this is an emergency," said Pitone, of Philadelphia, who has not been working since Wednesday, when he said he was told he could not eject students anymore. "People are making moves at me like they're going to punch me, then backing off. They know I can't kick them out. That leads to other students getting unruly."
District officials yesterday defended the school's position and said it was Pitone's job to manage his classroom.
"We're in the business of trying to keep students in the classroom. We're not in the business of kicking them out. He's a teacher. A teacher is a very, very tough thing to be. You have to be able to manage a lot of children in different stages of development. That's his job," said Wendy Beetlestone, the district's general counsel.
Audenried principal Bessie Young said yesterday that Pitone failed to fill out the proper forms to have students removed and that there was no evidence that a fight or threats had even occurred.
Disruptive student behavior has been a long-standing problem in the district, which last year adopted a tougher code of discipline.
Complaints such as Pitone's are not unique, but a teacher's seeking remedy through the courts is unusual.
Spokesmen for both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association and experts on school discipline said they were unaware of a similar case.
Some observers said that it was unlikely that a judge would intervene until the teacher had exhausted all internal remedies through the teachers' union contract. It could take four to five months for a grievance case, and during that time, the teacher would be required to follow procedures.
A judge is scheduled to review the matter at 1:30 p.m. today.
Hearing of the situation, Irwin Hyman, a Temple University psychology professor who specializes in school discipline, said: "I know some teachers send kids to the principal's office every time a kid sneezes. That's wrong. But the principal shouldn't just send a kid back up to a brand-new teacher who doesn't know what he's doing. Obviously, the guy was having trouble handling these kids and needed help."
Ted Kirsch, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said most teachers would "love" to be able to send problem students to the office on the spot.
"It's not reality in an urban setting," Kirsch said. A teacher must show that he or she has made efforts to maintain order: "If you're there less than a week, I wonder what efforts you made."
In-classroom discipline strategies include lunchtime detentions, removal of privileges, and additional work. Some teachers also arrange with nearby colleagues to swap unruly students so that the students get some time out of the classroom where they had problems. Teachers also are encouraged to make calls home to parents.
Pitone said he was not asking for the students to be removed permanently. But he wanted a disciplinarian to deal with them before sending them back.
"I'm the teacher. They should have another group that handles discipline," he said.
Young, Audenried's principal, said Pitone "didn't want to follow any policies or procedures."
She also said he left the building in the middle of the school day without notifying anyone.
Pitone contends that he did fill out the proper discipline forms. He left because he was unhappy with the response from the school, he said.
Pitone said students were out of control on his first day, Oct. 7. Pitone said he then took three days off for medical reasons and returned Oct. 14.
"Almost every student would back talk every instruction," the court papers stated. He also observed "nude images" on a student's computer screen.
Pitone had little experience dealing with students before entering the classroom. He participated in four weeks of district training for new teachers in August, where, he said, he learned about establishing "consequences" for poor behavior and the importance of being "stern" at first to set the tone.
He does not have a teaching degree. He is enrolled in the Corporate to Classroom program, which started in September at Holy Family University.
Susan Dinnocenti, director of the program and an assistant professor at Holy Family, acknowledged that Pitone is a student "in good standing" but declined to comment further.
Pitone said he thought he would be able to remove students who cursed at him or acted in a threatening manner because that's the way it was when he was a student: "It's like hot dogs and apple pie. I just thought you could do it."
Sadly, it's more typical that the beasts are sent back to class. I find it somewhat amusing that people from other fields come into the classroom and think it's going to be easy.
The teacher's associations should've sued many administrations starting decades ago for dereliction of duty.
1. Red Tape
2. Not supporting the instructor
Any wonder our schools are failing?
Yep, that's what a bureacracy does best: beats the noble spirit of service to one's fellows and "giving back to the community" right out of you.
OTOH, this guy strikes me as someone who doesn't know what he wants to do when he grows up.
The result? The politicians screamed the school was failing and could only be saved with more money.
Are you kidding? The teachers unions are the cause of this problem.
"It's not reality in an urban setting,"
Ted Kirsh. "Exhibit One" for why urban students' achievement lags behind the rest of the country.
I have taught. This possibility has been toyed with before--at least in the minds of teachers with dangerous students and an indifferent admin bureaucracy.
The targets of the suit should be the students and parents, though--suing the school system just dumps on innocent taxpayers.
If a student can be tried as an adult in criminal cases, why not in civil? And upon a defaulted monetary judgement, perhaps an injunction against attending class be enforced instead. Expulsion by lawsuit...?
Incompetent parents regard the school system as a holding tank for their little thugs. Kick the punks out. What's so hard about this?
Students sure don't hesitate to sue the teachers. Turn it around.
That's the way it should be, but there is no such right. Public schools are a failing institution. The NEA for years has focused on indoctrination, rather than education or discipline. The best course for the good parents and students is to vote with their feet. Our country is considerably more wealthy, and has more educational resources than when public education was instituted. People shouldn't feel that the government schools are the only game in town.
What a maroon.
In the eyes of the administration, there is no evidence that any student was physically threatening. Nor did the teacher do what he was supposed to do to maintain order. In order to have a good school, there must be a minimal level of complaints from those people that the administration has no contol over: the parents. Obviously, in this situation, the teacher is clearly at fault for not performing to the schools' standard procedures. Following proper procedure leads students by example and creates a better learning environment. When a teacher does not follow established procedure, it sends students the signal that it's OK to rebel against authority. SO if there are problems in the classroom, it's becasue of the disruptive nature of the teacher. < /sarcasm>
Personally, I hope more teachers bring many more lawsuits against their incompetent administrators.
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