- Screengrab via YouTube
Rafe Esquith, a famous public school teacher and author, filed a $1 billion proposed class-action lawsuit Thursday that makes some shocking allegations against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
Esquith taught English to many low-income and minority students in LA, and he gained international recognition with several best-selling books on his teaching philosophy. He was one of the district’s most popular teachers, according to CNN, where we first read of the lawsuit.
But 61-year-old Esquith was forced out of the classroom and forced into a purgatory he called “teacher jail” after he supposedly made a joke about nudity, according to the complaint. (Esquith says he simply read his students a Mark Twain passage.)
Esquith – who says he was investigated for “inappropriate conduct” – claims he’s the victim of an intricate scheme to get senior teachers out of the school to save costs. The lawsuit aims to represents other teachers who he says were put in a similar situation.
These are some of the more shocking allegations from the lawsuit. These are, of course, just allegations and not proven facts. We have reached out to the LAUSD, which says it’s reviewing the suit and has no further comment at this time.
1. “Teacher jails”
The lawsuit says the school conducts systematic “witch hunts” against teachers it wants to force out.
The district puts these teachers in “jails” indefinitely while they’re under investigation, according to the complaint.
“While hard to imagine existing in anywhere but in countries without due process, ‘teacher jails’ are gated structures throughout Los Angeles where teachers are forced to spend their days staring at cubicle walls and are forbidden from using any electronic device,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit described “teacher jails” as intentionally mind-numbing in an attempt to force teachers to crack and quit.
“Some teachers have been sitting in a cubicle and staring at the wall for over three years,” the lawsuit states.
2. An alleged “criminal scheme” to “cut costs at students’ expense”
The LAUSD puts older, qualified teachers in these “jails” just to save money, according to the lawsuit.
“LAUSD’s criminal scheme to imprison experienced, veteran teachers is a bald-faced attempt to reduce its ballooning retiree obligations by intimidating its best teachers into quitting their profession before accruing retiree healthcare and pension benefits,” the suit stated.
3. Investigators allegedly “tortured” graduates of Esquith’s classroom
In order to corroborate the claims LAUSD dredged up against Esquith, investigators surprised students at their homes looking for negative statements about him, according to the lawsuit.
Some of these students claimed that investigators harassed and intimidated them, and they’ve retained their own lawyers, according to the lawsuit.
4. An alleged pattern of “terrorizing” students to oust teachers
In addition to the harassment of students specific to Esquith’s class, the lawsuit alleges that there is a pattern of terrorizing students of teachers the LAUSD is targeting. Investigators provide loaded questions to students in the form of a questionnaire, according to the lawsuit. These types of questions include: “What creepy things did teacher X do? Has teacher X ever looked at you funny? Explain why teacher X may be racist?”
The suit claims the school district has deprived 2,000 teachers of $500,000 in benefits by either firing them or forcing them out, and it’s seeking a total of $1 billion in damages.