A veteran Chicago teacher is suing the school district after he was suspended and charged with possessing tools that school officials said violated their weapons policy.
Doug Bartlett, a second grade teacher at Washington Irving Elementary School, was suspended for four days after administrators determined the tools he used for visual aids endangered students.
In 2011 Bartlett was teaching a mandated course on “tools.” He showed students several tools that he used in his classroom including wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, a box cutter, and a small pocketknife. He explained how the tools were used and kept the items secured in a tool box.
“The visual aids were used in an effort to facilitate student understanding and remembrance of the curriculum,” the lawsuit states. “As he displayed the box cutter and pocketknife, Plaintiff specifically described the proper use of these tools. Neither of these items was made available to the students.”
Several days later, the 17-year veteran teacher received a notice that he was under investigation for possessing, carrying, storing and using a weapon – and for negligently supervising children. He was then suspended four days without pay.
John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, filed a federal lawsuit on Bartlett’s behalf claiming his civil rights were violated.
“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,” Whitehead said. “Education truly suffers when school administrators exhibit such poor judgment and common sense.”
A spokesman for the City of Chicago School District 299 did not return calls seeking comment.
Whitehead said Bartlett is the victim of a zero tolerance policy “run amok.”
The lawsuit claims the teacher had no idea that he could be subjected to disciplinary action for possessing common household tools in a classroom discussion that was mandated by the district.
Bartlett wants his record expunged as well as a financial settlement.