Internationally acclaimed Los Angeles elementary school teacher Rafe Esquith was put on indefinite leave from the classroom earlier this year amid allegations of misconduct, though the circumstances behind the suspension remain murky, according to local news reports.
Esquith, known for his passionate and uncompromising instructional style, has taught at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles for 30 years, holding forth in the now near-legendary “Room 56.” He is also the author of several popular books on teaching, including Real Talk for Real Teachers and Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire.
According to the L.A. Times, Esquith was suspended by the Los Angeles Unified School District in March, pending an investigation. While the district has not specified the reasons for the suspension, Esquith’s attorney, Mark Geragos, claims it stems from a complaint from another teacher about Esquith’s having read a passage from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in class. The alleged passage in question involves the king and the duke, the conmen Huck and Jim encounter in their travels, and includes some nudity, though it’s not clear if that was the basis for the complaint.
In an email to Education Week Teacher, a spokesperson for the district declined to provide details on the nature of the complaint, saying only that “Rafe Esquith has been reassigned to a non-school office pending an investigation. He is currently on the payroll.”
Esquith did not respond to a request for comment.
Geragos, one of the most high-profile attorneys in Los Angeles, told the Times that the state has already cleared Esquith of wrongdoing. He is now threatening to sue the district if it does not apologize to Esquith and allow him to return to the classroom.
The district said that it is hoping to complete its investigation before the start of next school year, according the Times.
Esquith is known for his committment to teaching high-level literary texts to his predominantly low-income, minority 5th graders at Hobart, including turning his students into acclaimed Shakespearan performers. According to the Times article, the Hobart Shakespearans had to cancel 12 performances of “The Winter’s Tale” this spring due to Esquith’s absence.
Photo Rafe Esquith by Heather Harris.
More on Rafe Esquith:
- Lighting Fires With Rafe Esquith
- “There Are No Shortcuts": An Interview With Rafe Esquith
- Interview: Pay Your Dues, Then Rebel
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.