Take Note

May 24, 2000 1 min read

Bye-bye baby

For a few days this month, John T. Masuhara had to be the principal of a high school with 1,820 teenagers, one infant, and a nanny.

Kathryn Crayton-Shay, a 9th grade English teacher at Hilo High School in Hawaii, returned from maternity leave with her 3-month-old girl and a babysitter in tow. The child and nanny stayed with her in classes throughout the day.

The seven-year classroom veteran took the unusual action to make a statement about the importance of parents caring for their children.

“It’s almost hypocritical to say that I was going to nurture somebody else’s children,” but not her own infant, Ms.Crayton-Shay said in an interview.

For Mr. Masuhara, the protest crossed the line.

“I told her I thought it was inappropriate” for the baby to be in school, he said.

But Ms. Crayton-Shay said she received no complaints from her colleagues or students.

The teacher and principal negotiated a settlement that allows her to use sick leave to stay home for the rest of the school year.

But Ms.Crayton-Shay said she will file a grievance “just to keep the issue alive.”

She plans to mount a campaign for a new policy offering one year of paid maternity leave for state employees.

State law currently grants 20 days of family leave and any available sick leave.

That’s inadequate, Ms.Crayton-Shay said, because it forces teachers to return to work too early and doesn’t protect teachers who don’t have tenure or sick-leave balances.

When school opens next fall, Ms.Crayton-Shay is looking for alternatives to returning to Hilo High School.

She said she wants to teach in an online high school so she can still spend most of her time at home with her baby.

But Mr. Masuhara said he would welcome her back to Hilo High next fall. “She loves to teach, and she’s an excellent teacher,” he said.

—David J. Hoff

A version of this article appeared in the May 24, 2000 edition of Education Week