Teacher Sues School over Suspension for 'Weapons' Charge: Showing Students Garden Tools

April 22, 2013 - 2:15 PM

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a civil rights lawsuit against a Chicago public school district on behalf of a second-grade teacher who was suspended after he displayed garden-variety tools such as wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers in his classroom as part of a "tool discussion" in his class.

Despite the fact that all potentially hazardous items were kept out of the students' reach, school officials at Washington Irving Elementary School informed Doug Bartlett, a 17-year veteran in the classroom, that his use of the tools as visual aids endangered his students. Bartlett was subsequently penalized with a four-day suspension without pay - charged with possessing, carrying, storing or using a weapon.

The complaint charges that Bartlett "suffered humiliation, embarrassment, mental suffering, and lost wages, and was suspended for four days" - and asks for "nominal and compensatory damages" and for the suspension to be expunged from the teacher's record.

"This school district's gross overreaction to a simple teaching demonstration on basic tools such as wrenches and pliers underscores exactly what is wrong with our nation's schools," said Rutherford Institute Pres. John Whitehead.

"What makes this case stand out from the rest is that this latest victim of zero tolerance policies run amok happens to be a veteran school teacher," Whitehead said.

None of the tools were made accessible to the students. When not in use, the tools were secured in a toolbox on a high shelf out of reach of the students. They were used to demonstrate the proper use of tools.

See more "Right Views, Right Now."