Teacher Suspended For Bringing ‘Weapons’ To School Sues District

Chicago, IL – The administration at Washington Irving Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois suspended a 17-year veteran teacher, Douglas Bartlett, claiming he exposed young children to potentially hazardous items when he brought in several tools – like wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers – as part of a presentation to his second-grade students.

Bartlett, who was dismissed without pay for four days, is now suing the school district – naming the Chicago School District No. 299 and principal Valeria Newell in court documents.

Bartlett filed on April 17, claiming he suffered humiliation, embarrassment, and emotional and mental distress, and wishes to recoup lost wages from the over-blown incident, which took place on August 8, 2011. Bartlett also requested the suspension be expunged from his record.

Along with the professional and emotional suffering, the suit asserts Bartlett’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The Fourth Amendment – of the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights – guards against unreasonable and unlawful search and seizure, requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

The suit refers to the suspension as a case of an overzealous application of political correctness. The educator was reprimanded for bringing what he called “garden tools” into class as visual aids for a required tool discussion – showing wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers to his class. Bartlett assured the potentially hazardous items were kept out of reach of young hands and only used as part of the lesson.

The district contends that as part of Bartlett’s curriculum-mandated tool discussion, he showed the students a pocket knife and box cutter as well as various wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers. The pocket knife is what instigated the weapon in school suspension.

Do you think district and school administrators overreacted in suspending the teacher? The news frequently reports on teachers who are arrested and charged with abuse or engaging in sexual relationships with students. Often they are put on paid leave as a result. Do you think it was right for the district to suspend Bartlett without pay?

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