December 21, 2005 1 min read

“His real gift is that he makes every child want to go to school. I do not know how he does it by insulting them.”

—Wolcott Elementary School parent Kathy Goldman, talking about 3rd grade teacher Matthew Dicks, who taught her son last year. The West Hartford, Connecticut, mother is a self-described “groupie” of the offbeat educator, recently named local teacher of the year, despite the fact that he called her son “Big Foot.”

“Dog dander.”

—The reason school officials allegedly gave for barring Sarah Garvin’s trained assistance dog, Satin, from accompanying the 15-year-old, who has Down syndrome and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, to her speech pathology class at H.H. Poole Middle School in Stafford, Virginia. Officials wouldn’t comment about her case but said that animals are generally permitted only when they’re specifically needed for a student to learn.

“They saw an opportunity to hit a teacher.”

—Mark Seghers, a Hurricane Katrina evacuee working as a teacher at South Philadelphia High School. While disciplining a female student, Seghers was pummeled by the student, her twin sister, and more than 20 other classmates. The teacher, who suffered facial bruises and a chipped tooth, doesn’t plan to return to the school.

“We had a ‘Country Club Day’ last year, and I don’t see any difference between dressing up in country club style and dressing up thug.”

—Elizabeth Carlock, senior class president of Highland Park High School in Dallas, explaining why she thinks there’s nothing racist about “senior Thug Day.” The annual homecoming tradition at the school, 94 percent of whose students are white, involves dressing up in Afro wigs, fake gold teeth, and baggy jeans to imitate maids, gang members, and rap stars.

“As an employee of the school system, I comply with the policies, but on a personal level, I am conflicted.”

—Pamela Berthold, the English teacher of 14-year-old Shawnte Andre-Sanders. Under the guidelines at Stonewall Jackson High School, near Manassas, Virginia, the 3.7 grade-point average student could not be sent any classwork or homework to make up during her recent five-day suspension for allegedly scuffling at a bus stop. Shawnte instead spent the day largely in front of the TV with her sister, a 4.0 student who was suspended in connection with the same incident.

A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as OVERHEARD