New York Teacher Who Was Fired After Controversial Lessons Sues District

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — January 08, 2016 1 min read
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A New York City English teacher is suing the school district, saying she was dismissed after administrators balked at a lesson about the Central Park Five, five black and Hispanic men who were falsely accused of and imprisoned for attacking and raping a jogger.

The New York Daily News reports that the teacher, Jenna Lee-Walker, was told by administrators at the High School for Arts, Imagination and Inquiry that a 2013 lesson about the Central Park Five could stir riots and that she should take a more balanced approach. Over the next year and a half, Lee-Walker says, she was accused of insubordination, received a series of negative performance reviews, and was fired.

The Daily News reports that Lee-Walker says she was not given the contract-mandated 60 days of notice before being terminated and that she was retaliated against for discussing the case with students.

The case drew attention on Twitter, where teacher and activist Jose Vilon tweeted:

Teaching race and religion can be perilous ground for teachers. In December, a Virginia district closed its doors for a day after parents were upset by a lesson that involved students writing a statement in Arabic in a lesson about Islam.

Districts often have legal backing for dismissing teachers whose classroom practices violate district or school board policy. In the late 1990s, Education Week covered two teachers who sued after being dismissed for controversial classroom practices, including allowing students to use profanity in creative writing. Both teachers lost their cases.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.