Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What, really?!?

There are times I learn of happenings in the news that just astound me, not so much because I have some naïve faith in the proper behavior of people but because I’m amazed that anyone could possibly believe that such tacky behavior is in any way acceptable.

So that was pretty much my gut reaction to learning of the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Chicago Public Schools on account of actions at one Northwest Side school where administrators seemed to have a hang-up about their teachers who became pregnant.

IT SEEMS THAT teachers at the Scammon Elementary School who became impregnated found themselves facing harassment in terms of lower performance evaluation ratings and demotions in terms of class assignments.

It seemed as though school officials, according to the lawsuit now pending in U.S. District Court, wanted to discourage those teachers enough that they would quit. In some cases, those teachers didn’t seem to take the hint, and wound up being fired from their jobs – even some who had been around long enough to have acquired tenure.

The lawsuit contends that since 2009, eight teachers lost their jobs under such circumstances. Two of them filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found enough evidence to support claims that the Civil Rights Act was violated.

Which resulted in the lawsuit being filed this week – one that seeks financial compensation for the teachers who lost their jobs and court-ordered measures meant to prevent pregnant women from being harassed on the job in the future.

EVEN AS I write this commentary, I shake my head in disgust and amazement that anyone capable of getting a job within educational administration could think that any such behavior could in any be acceptable.

Let alone legal!

Reading the accounts of the lawsuit filed in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, along with the lawsuit itself made me feel like I was reading some decades-old account of actions that once might have been thought appropriate – but which we now realize are so pathetic that we wonder how we ever could have been that narrow-minded.

Then again, I’m sure there are behaviors we engage in that people 100 or so years from now will wonder, “How could they have ever been so clueless?”

SO CALL ME naïve. I’d like to think this is a lawsuit that will quickly be seen by Chicago Public Schools officials as an embarrassment, and one that they will want to work to resolve as quickly as possible.

And not just by throwing some money at the former teachers to get them to “Shut Up!” without having to admit any wrong-doing.

Particularly since it appears this is a matter that the Chicago Teachers Union had been aware of and had been trying unsuccessfully to get schools officials to address without having to get the courts involved.

Instead, it has wound up in the federal court system, where it will wind up being another blotch on our city’s reputation.

ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT there will be a few people who will want to dismiss these allegations in their minds as somehow being interference by the government in a local school’s administration. Instead of it being what it is – the courts attempting to protect people when the law is not being followed.

Acting assistant attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division had to make a statement publicly about this lawsuit, saying, “No woman should have to make a choice between her job and having a family. Federal law requires employers to maintain a workplace free of discrimination on the basis of sex.”

Which is sad that it even has to be said publicly.


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