If you ever wanted a quick lesson in what is wrong with American public education, and absolute proof that the welfare of the kids doesn’t matter one little bit, check out this very sad, but very true story from Banning, California.
For those of you who have never heard of this town–and that would be anyone who has not driven from LA to Palm Springs–Banning calls itself “Stagecoach Town, USA,” even though it was founded in 1862, and the railroad replaced the stagecoach there in 1876. Go figure.
About ten years ago, John Maurer came to Banning High School to teach special education. Even among dedicated special ed teachers, John Maurer was a breed apart. The kids loved him, and so did the parents. His students were understanding classical music and Shakespeare, and seemed to be relating better to the regular ed students, as well. But, last spring, everything changed.
What, you might ask, could have taken this beloved teacher from his students? Was it a fatal disease? Were there complaints of molestation? Did he simply get a better offer somewhere else, perhaps? Oh no. It was nothing like that.
John Maurer, you see, wore the wrong color hat to school one day.
Maurer notes that special education children, because of disabilities, often have a hard time getting enough exercise and can suffer from weight problems. So he would try hard to get them outside. To protect himself from the sun, he often wore a wide-brimmed beige hat.
This ran afoul of the new policy on hats, put in place by the then new principal, Dr. Jim Broncatello. Presumably to prevent the showing of gang colors, Broncatello decreed that hats worn on campus must be one of the school colors–white, black, green, or yellow. Maurer claims that he was unaware of the policy.
When confronted by the principal, he first changed to a white hat, but then got upset over the ridiculous policy, that even disallowed an LA Dodger hat. A feud developed between Maurer and Brocantello, that resulted in the principal reneging on the use of a school room for a play rehearsal. Maurer retaliated by wearing a red hat the next day, and then all Hell broke loose.
Believe it or not, the entire special ed program was then moved to a different facility, over the vehement objections of ALL the parents. Since federal law requires educators to perform assessments on special ed students before moving them, it was easy enough for the parents to convince the craven administrators to send the class back to Banning High School. But, they couldn’t do anything to restore Maurer as the teacher.
This current school year, Maurer’s former students were moved again, as was Maurer, to another school’s special ed program within the Riverside County district. He enjoys his new job, but misses the students from last year. Litigation is pending.
The last thing you want to do with a special ed kid is to put him through traumatic changes, but Broncatello maintaining his petty fiefdom clearly trumps the needs of the kids, so there you have it. In his 1100 word article on this case, LA Times writer Scott Gold used the phrase “declined to comment” four times, referring to various administrators he tried to interview, to get the other side of the story.
Untold billions of dollars are spent in this country on public education, with mostly poor results, and no accountability. I have no doubt whatsoever that within Broncatello’s school, there are far greater problems than hat color, but these will never be solved. Small things for small minds, I guess.
Have you ever wondered how the issue that is every politician’s number one priority–education–could be in the sorry state that it is?
In asking the question, you’ve answered it: Education is in its sorry state BECAUSE it is such a hot political issue, attended to daily by those gifted with the reverse Midas touch.