The principal of a Florida high school put a teacher into what others have described as a "timeout" for allegedly not being able to manage her classroom safely.
Jonnie Clarke, 59, an art teacher at West Gadsden High School in Quincy, Florida, was called into a meeting in Principal James Mills' office sometime in December, according to WCTV. Shortly afterwards, she was reportedly taken out of her art classroom and made to sit in a small desk in the corner of the hallway to serve a "nonexistent" hall monitor position.
Ronte Harris, president of the Gadsden County Classroom Teachers Association, took a picture of Clarke sitting in the hallway and posted it to Twitter on Dec. 15 with the caption: "In Gadsden County, FL, the teacher is punished for not being able to control unruly students! Teacher TimeOut!"
Mills said that he made the move because the art teacher failed to adequately supervise her students. Both Clarke and Harris, however, said that the decision was actually retaliation for Clarke complaining about Mills to district officials -- a claim Mills has denied.
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"It was for humiliation, and it was bullying," Harris told WCTV. "It was just employee bullying. The most important thing is that other employees and other teachers on campus were witness to that, along with the students."
District superintendent Reginald James said that while he believed that reports of unruly student behavior in Clarke's class were a legitimate concern, he does not recommend using teachers as hall monitors.
"From my vantage point, that was unprofessional," he told WCTV about Mills' decision to place Clarke in the hallway.
The principal later transferred Clarke to a non-teaching position in the school's media center at James' request. She will have to complete professional development and classroom management training courses before she can return to the classroom.
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Clarke holds several teaching certificates and has been employed in various Gadsden County schools over the last 20 years.
Although Mills declined to elaborate on the student misbehavior that led to his decision to remove the teacher, Clarke said she was cited for students getting out of their seats, a brief altercation between two students that she resolved within a minute, and two students arm-wrestling before the bell rang.
Harris told the Tallahassee Democrat that he planned to discuss Clarke's removal from teaching at the next Gadsden County School Board meeting.
"In a county that cannot recruit and retain qualified teachers, having a district that refuses to work with those that are qualified is doing the community a disservice," Harris said.
"This is employee bullying ... this is about our working conditions," he added.