Celebrated Los Angeles Teacher Faces Allegations of Misconduct


A nationally recognized Los Angeles Unified teacher who was removed from his classroom in March after allegations surfaced concerning misconduct is asking to return to work.

Lawyers for Hobart Boulevard Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith recently issued an ultimatum to district administrators, asking them to give Esquith his job back through a public apology or prepare to be sued, writes Zahira Torres for The LA Times.

Three months after Esquith was removed from the classroom, school officials have still not made the specific allegations against him known. However, lawyer Mark Geragos said the allegations could have come from a complaint received by another teacher after Esquith read a passage from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. While the book is considered a classic and is commonly read in classrooms across the country, many have issues with its use of the "n-word," although it is not clear if that was part of the official complaint. However, the book is on a number of syllabi and reading lists at various LAUSD schools.

"When you quote Mark Twain you go to teacher jail, your reputation is trampled on and ignorant bureaucrats assume the role of judge and jury in the face of a baseless allegation which has already been found meritless by the California Teacher Credentialing Committee," Geragos told the Times. "Sadly, it is the students, their families and the community that suffers."

Details have yet to be released by district officials who say that "the goal is to complete the investigation before school starts in August," adding that Esquith is still on the payroll for the district.

According to attorney Benjamin Meiselas, the district has not been clear regarding the allegations. "No parent has complained. No student has complained about Rafe," he said.

LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines recently said there have been "serious issues" raised concerning the information he has seen in the case, and he fully supports the continued investigation by the district.

Esquith has been nationally recognized for his teaching abilities. He started the Hobart Shakespeareans Foundation, raising money for classroom materials and field trips, and has helped children in urban neighborhoods establish a love of reading and Shakespeare since 2004. He has written three books, including "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56," and has received a number of awards for his efforts.

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