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Case Studies

Consider the scenarios below. Each fictional scenario is loosely based on actual cases that have been brought to the PSPC in recent years or ones that have appeared in local or national news. In each situation, consider the impact of the teacher’s actions on the students in the classroom. Also, consider whether the teacher had any legitimate concerns, whether the teacher’s conduct reflected overt or inadvertent bias and what administrative response would be appropriate in each scenario.

Case 1

Thomas E. is a high school social studies teacher with 25 years of teaching experience in an urban district. In an attempt to be viewed as hip by his students, Mr. E. chooses to use a racial slur in reference to one of the male students in the class. Several students go to the principal to complain. When the principal meets with Mr. E., the teacher explains that he hears it used on television and in rap music all the time.

Case 2

Timothy G. is a middle school science teacher who has several special needs students in his class. While he works hard to help his students learn, Mr. G. believes that some students don't belong in a mainstream class and that IEPs undermine his ability to teach. While taking an exam, one of the students asks for extended time because it is mandated by her IEP. Mr. G. argues that the student is using the IEP as a crutch. Mr. G. explains that the student should just work harder or get moved to the special room with all of the other "short bussers". The student complains to her parents who request a conference with the principal.

Case 3

Melissa S. is a third grade teacher in a rural school. Near the end of the year, Rodrigo enrolls in her class, even though he cannot speak English. Ms. S. is frustrated because she feels she does not have the training to work with a student like Rodrigo and complains in class that "people shouldn't come here if they can't even speak our language". One of the students complains to her parents about what Ms. S said.

Case 4

Mark B. is a middle school counselor who works with eighth grade students. One of his students this year is a Muslim student who wears traditional headscarves and follows a formal prayer schedule. Mr. B's principal asks him to find a quiet place in the guidance office where the student can pray each afternoon in privacy. When the student comes to the guidance office to pray, Mr. B greets the student and teases her for her dress and for "having to pray all the time". The parents complain to the principal about Mr. B's insensitivity.

Case 5

Keith E. is a high school physics teacher who requires all of his students to purchase expensive graphing calculators and bring them to his class daily. Each day, Mr. E. checks to see whether students have brought their calculators and grades students based on this policy. Sammy lives in a single parent home and his mother has recently lost her job. Due to the family's financial constraints, Sammy is unable to purchase a calculator and receives zeroes not "being prepared". At the end of the first marking period, Sammy receives a poor grade despite understanding the material. Sammy is too embarrassed to go to the principal to complain.

While these cases are fictional, real cases that have been adjudicated by the Pennsylvania Standards and Practices Commission can be accessed by visiting the PSPC site.