Skip to comments.Cop takes 'midnight photos' of teacher's classroom
Posted on 05/06/2003 9:35:22 AM PDT by anniegetyourgun
BARRE John Mott and Tom Treece have at least one thing in common. Make that two.
Both men think they have been unfairly accused and, if you believe their critics, both have had a chilling impact on students at Spaulding High School.
Mott is the Barre Town police officer who admits he spent part of an early morning break last month photographing student projects in the classroom of a controversial history teacher.
Treece is that teacher. A passionate pacifist, he has been skewered publicly by critics who say he is pedaling his personal political views to the students in his class. Part of the proof, critics say, is in the photographs Mott took when he visited the high school April 9 while on duty, in uniform, and out of his jurisdiction.
The photographs were taken at around 1:30 a.m. after Mott, who once worked at Spaulding, persuaded a custodian to unlock the door to the classroom Treece shares with another teacher.
Mott isnt apologizing for his actions and says he has at least temporarily refused orders from Barre Town Police Chief Michael Stevens and Town Manager Carl Rogers to supply school officials with copies of the photographs.
Im going to speak to an attorney first, he said.
Mott disputes an account of the April 9 incident contained in a letter written by school Superintendent Dorothy Anderson to the police chief.
Specifically, Mott disputes Andersons claim that he banged on the front door of the high school to get the attention of night custodian Arnold Cliche, and that Cliche opened the door and let him in.
It didnt happen that way, he said.
According to Mott, he entered the school through an unlocked maintenance door, found Cliche and asked him to unlock the door to Treeces classroom room so he could take photographs with his personal camera. Although he was on duty at the time, Mott maintains that he was on a break and wanted to photograph student projects that offended him as an American and a retired military man.
I wanted everybody else to see what was in that room. You cant explain it, he said.
Among the student projects that Mott said he photographed were a poster of the President Bush with duct tape over his mouth and a large papier-mâché combat boot with the American flag stuffed inside stepping on a doll. He said there also were pictures of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and his former chief lieutenant, Ernesto Che Guevara, posted on the walls.
Having spent 30 years in uniform, I was insulted, he said. Im just taking a stand on what happens in that classroom as a resident and a voter and a taxpayer of this community.
Mott said he took the photographs less than 48 hours after attending a school board meeting at which several residents complained about what they claimed was an attempt to indoctrinate not educate students.
School officials have rejected that notion, defending Treece as a thought-provoking teacher who provides students in his public issues class with resources from the full spectrum of political perspectives.
As a teacher he (Treece) does present all sides of an issue, Anderson said.
Anderson said she was concerned that Mott used his uniform to gain access to a locked classroom after hours without supervision.
I find this behavior, at the very least, in violation of our policy for visitors at the school, she wrote in her letter to the police chief. I also find it disturbing that a police officer would wear his uniform under such circumstances thereby intimidating our employee (Cliche) into letting him in the building at a very unusual hour.
Anderson said she met with the police chief and the town manager on Friday to discuss her concerns and to reiterate her request for copies of the photographs Mott took and has been circulating in the community. She said Mott had not yet complied with that request, which is based solely on her desire to confirm the photographs were not doctored in any way.
Were not embarrassed about what was in that classroom, she said. We just want to make sure that the pictures he (Mott) took are an accurate reflection of what the classroom looked like.
Mott said the photographs he took are authentic and accused school officials of tap-dancing around an issue that was brought to their attention last month by using the circumstances under which he entered Treeces classroom as a diversion.
It leads me to believe they are out witch-hunting, he said.
Treece said he knows the feeling. He says Mott and his other detractors dont have a clue about what he does in his classroom, but that hasnt stopped them from jumping to conclusions based on his personal political views.
None of these parents know me in any way, he said. They just think they know me. Everything they know about me is hearsay. They dont have kids in my class. They have taken lies and innuendoes and run with them.
Treece does not hide his personal views and acknowledges his public criticisms of the war in Iraq and President Bush have irked many in the community. However, he said their contention that he is force-feeding his views to Spaulding students is simply wrong.
I tell kids from day one: I dont want you to agree with me, I want you to be informed and think for yourselves, he said. I have never squashed dissent in my class in any way shape or form.
Treece said his message to students is simple: Defend what you believe and if you cant defend it Im going to pick holes in your argument no matter what side of the issue youre on.
Treece said he supplies his students with a broad range of resources and encourages them to use them to come to their own conclusions.
My goal in that class is to get kids to think and be critical of everything they read and hear and see, he said.
Treece said hes tired of being painted as anti-American simply because he challenges students not to take what anyone not the president, their parents, or even he says at face value.
I want them to understand that everybodys got an agenda everybody, he said.
Treece said that goes for his detractors, some of whom are using the controversy over a six-word sentence All hail the idiot boy king that he posted on a bulletin board next to a picture of President Bush as a reason to reject the high school budget. The budget is scheduled for a re-vote next week.
Theyre out to get the budget and theyve made me their whipping boy, he said.
Treece makes no apologies for how he conducts his classes or for his own political views. In retrospect, he said, the comment he posted about Bush was probably too direct.
The board meets at 7 p.m. in the high school library. Like the Malones, both Mott and Treece said they plan to attend.
I did not recognize how fragile peoples feelings were at the time, he said. It was horrible timing on my part.
If he had it to do over again, Treece said he would spell out the same sentiments in two pages of text that wouldnt have offended anyone.
Paul and Norma Malone, the local couple who first took issue with the comment Treece posted on the board, insist theyre not out to scuttle the budget, but want to restore balance in the curriculum at Spaulding.
Our position has been and still is there should be a balance in that curriculum and respect in that school, said Paul Malone.
Although the couples criticism is not limited to Treece, they admit his comment served as a springboard for their effort.
Its not an issue of freedom of speech. That was never the issue, he said. Its an issue of balance and its an issue of professionalism.
Based on discussions with faculty, parents and students, Norma Malone said students from a largely conservative community are being urged to view the world to through a liberal lens.
Theres nothing from the center or from the right, she said, rejecting Treeces comments to the contrary.
The Malones, who have formed the group Citizens Advocating Responsible Education, say they plan to attend tonights school board meeting and present a copy of a petition signed by several hundred supporters. The petition states in part: Students must be provided a thorough, factual, unbiased study of the history of our nation, the importance of our government institutions, and the significance of our political traditions so as to engender civic duty and respect for our national values.
In order to accomplish that goal, the petition suggests revisions to the schools policy regarding academic freedom and the appointment of community members to the school boards curriculum committee.
And the teacher's a jerk, and the custodian is a walking cliche.
And the teacher's a jerk, and the custodian is a walking cliche.
You're right on all counts.
If the cop really wanted pictures of this stuff, he could have asked nicely at the front desk, during normal business hours.
As a taxpayer, he has that right.
Of course, it's entirely possible that the school administrators -- who clearly are protecting Treece -- wouldn't have let him in.
Mott may have anticipated such a response, and decided to do something stupid -- which he did.
Thomas Treece - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry Desmarais, Chair - email@example.com
Or, do what I do and send an e-mail to the whole freaking school so other teachers and staff are aware of citizen anger:
Here is the little pinko's website as well, http://www.vita-learn.org/shs/depots/history/treece/treece.html
Come on FREEPERS! This one is worth voicing your discourse. Post your letters so we can all enjoy!