Heermann found a sponsor to pay for the 175 books and sent home permission slips, explaining the project, and allowing for an alternate book, The Wave, to be read if parents objected. All but one student had permission to read the book. She also received the principals permission, but still needed the permission of the assistant superintendent. When she didn't hear back in three months, she handed out the books to her students, but later in the day, she received an email from the principal asking her not to distribute books until there was further discussion. The administration found the book to be inappropriate for the classroom and she was asked to collect the books back from the students. At that point, Heermann made the decision NOT to collect the books.
Even though no teacher has ever been suspended or fired for using The Freedom Writer's Diary, and even though Gruwell attended the school board meeting in an effort to defend Heermann, the school board suspended her for a year and a half; she won't be able to teach again until September, 2009. One school board member said that even though Heermann had the parents' permission, she attempted to use the book without school board permission, sending the message to her students, "if it feels good, do it." But, what is the message the board sent to the kids? How many of these board members really know where these kids come from and the conditions they have to live in everyday? If they did, I suspect bad language would be the least of their worries.
Hmmmm...let's look at the facts:
- Heermann received training from Gruwell who has successfully taught inner city kids;
- Heermann received permission the use the book from all but one parent;
- Heermann received permission to use the book from her principal;
- Heermann is a veteran teacher who teaches kids from poor, dangerous neighborhoods and has the best interest of her kids at heart;
- Heerman is suspended for insubordination.
Thanks to Under The Tree and Reading for alerting me to this story.