Freedom to Teach

By Danielle Woods — June 30, 2008 1 min read
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An Indianapolis teacher who bucked school orders by allowing her high school English students to read The Freedom Writers Diary was suspended for a year without pay for insubordination, according to a video report.

The Freedom Writers Diary, a book-turned-movie, contains journal-style musings of California high school city students. Expletives and violent images often accompany their reflections of personal tragedies, troubled homes, and impoverished neighborhoods. Perry Township School Board officials say teacher Connie Heermann’s decision to teach the book was inappropriate. “The people … looked at this content and said that it will do more harm than good,” said school board attorney Jon Bailey.

Many of Heermann’s students share similar backgrounds with the book’s authors, which Heermann herself says is beneficial. “They come to know through reading and literature that they’re not alone in the problems they face,” she said.

The school board originally stalled in deciding whether to allow the book, Heermann says. She officially received recall orders even after getting parental permission, but decided to allow her students to continue with the book anyway. “They were reading, they were engaged. I looked at my students and decided I want them to read this book,” she said.

Heermann is allowed to return to teaching in the school in September 2009, but refuses to do so unless she is allowed to teach the book.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.