Something Stinks In The East Grand Forks School System

Bryan Perkins, the East Grand Forks teacher who was suspended after voicing concerns in an email (read it here) about class attendance habits of some of his Somali students, has gone public for the first time with comments about the incident. He has written a letter to the editor of the Grand Forks Herald asking that local voters not punish his school district for their handling of his situation by voting against a local bond issue.

I have no opinion on the bond question, not being familiar with the details, but Perkins’ letter puts lie to some of the claims about his suspensionmade by his school district in an earlier letter to the Herald

Tony Palmiscno, the chairman of the East Grand Forks School Board, claimed in his letter that Perkins’ suspension wasn’t punishment. “A paid administrative leave is not discipline,” he wrote. “Its purpose is to remove the employee from the work setting so the issue can be investigated.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”In contrast to what has been rumored, there was no complaint filed against me,” he wrote. “Placing me on leave was an administrative decision alone.”[/mks_pullquote]

Contrast that with how Perkins describes the situation in his letter. “I would qualify it more as the shameful way a personnel issue was dealt with,” he wrote, which sure sounds like someone who feels they were punished.

In his letter, Palmiscno claims that the suspension was the result of a complaint being investigated. “A complaint was made against Perkins. Because of the restrictions in Minnesota law, we cannot say what the complaint involved,” he wrote.

But Perkins, doing Palmiscno the courtesy of calling his claim a mere “rumor” rather than a statement of fact published in a newspaper, denies that there was ever a complaint.

“In contrast to what has been rumored, there was no complaint filed against me,” he wrote. “Placing me on leave was an administrative decision alone.”

Somebody here is lying, and it doesn’t seem likely at this point that it is Perkins.

As I’ve noted previously, the public deserves to know more about this situation, especially given that there are now serious discrepancies in the public record about how this situation came to be, and how it was handled.

This was no trivial situation. A teacher writing an email expressing perfectly reasonable claims about attendance among a certain demographic of students was suspended, for weeks, with school district officials now claiming the suspension a) wasn’t a punishment and b) that it was simply the result of an investigation into a complaint that Perkins himself says doesn’t exist.

The school district says state law prohibits them from speaking on the matter further. That seems to me to be a ludicrous and self-serving interpretation of the law, and perhaps someone should challenge it.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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