Seattle Public Schools officials are dealing with the fallout from allegations of improper conduct on another Garfield High School student trip. One teacher at the school has been placed on paid leave as the district investigates the allegations, according to a statement from SPD sent Wednesday morning.
The district announcement said “Seattle School Board policies, procedures, and protocols were violated” on a Garfield student field trip to New Orleans in March:
During this field trip a male student is alleged to have groped two female students at night in a New Orleans hotel room and on a bus, students observed their teacher and chaperones drinking alcohol, a teacher and chaperones drank alcohol at night on other occasions, a chaperone was visibly incapacitated and had to be helped back to their hotel room one night, and a chaperone was alleged to have engaged in inappropriate contact with a student while under the influence of alcohol.
A group of Garfield students announced they are staging a walkout to protest what they say is a termination recommendation for a music teacher at the school. “The District is sacrificing the well being and education of its students, and attempting to rob Garfield of yet another teacher in one year,” a statement from the students on the walkout reads.
Earlier this school year, SPS backed down from a plan to cut a Garfield teacher as part of an annual budgeting process after protest from students and staff at the 23rd Ave school that serves thousands of students in the neighborhoods around the Central District and Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, the school has been embroiled in a series of controversies related to student trips. The most serious case involved the investigation of a sexual assault during a school trip on the Olympic Peninsula in 2012.
UPDATE 6/15/15: The Friends of the Garfield Singers parent booster group has released a statement on the situation and letters of support for teacher Carol Burton. Here’s a portion of the statement:
The District issued a press release on Tuesday, June 10th, containing summary allegations about the events surrounding the suspension and potential termination of Ms. Burton, but provided few specific facts. The District’s statements caused many inaccurate news reports, based on speculation rather than facts. With information known to parents and students involved with the choir program and the New Orleans field trip, we want to provide some important background and key facts that the District has neglected to disclose to the public.
“This student group traveled to New York and performed at Carnegie Hall last year, and has had one or more overnight trips for many years,” the statement reads. “There has never been a reported incident of sexual misconduct in the 14 years of Ms. Burton’s program, managing thousands of students, until the report on the last day of this year’s field trip.”
The group’s statement refutes many of the allegations made by the district and provides additional details that the group said the district left out of its account of the activities. The parent group also says that the allegations of inappropriate sexual activity by a chaperone were leveled by the same student who had been accused on inappropriate sexual activity in a separate incident. The group writes “we are confident the District’s investigation will find no credibility to the allegation, and are shocked that the District published it.”
The full document is here (PDF).