When a teacher writes a racy book
COMMENTARY BY DONNA SIMPSON LEAK September 7, 2012 8:58PM
Rich Central coach Bryan Craig watches his team in action last year. | File photo
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:22AM
Before students returned for the start of the 2012-2013 school year at Rich Township High School District 227, our teaching staff participated in our annual professional development institute on Aug. 9.
As part of this program, we celebrated our successes, such as more than $10 million in scholarships earned by graduating seniors who were accepted and attend some of our nation’s top institutions, including Harvard and Howard University. We recognized the Rich South High School Band’s participation in events in London surrounding the 2012 Summer Olympics and the inclusion of Rich East and Rich Central High Schools in a prestigious listing by U.S. News and World Report.
But we also looked ahead to the challenges we face as a district in the coming year and reiterated our policies on appropriate professional communication for educators — both in and outside of the classroom. This included clear guidance that what they write, say, tweet or post on Facebook or a blog can have negative repercussions if it does not comport with District 227 policy or adversely impacts our school community.
Bryan Craig, a guidance counselor and former girls’ basketball coach at Rich Central High School, was in the audience for that session. But already, unbeknownst to the district, he had written and self-published a controversial book containing offensive content regarding women and sex.
As superintendent of District 227, upon learning about the book on Aug. 22, I moved swiftly to alert our Board of Education and immediately launched an internal investigation to identify if and how district resources and/or other staff members may have been involved in this matter. Soon thereafter, on Aug. 28, Mr. Craig resigned as girls’ basketball coach. On August 31, he was notified by certified mail that he had been placed on administrative leave with pay, and he will not have contact with our students or access to school property as our investigation proceeds.
All of these actions were initiated because they were the right and appropriate thing to do, before and not because of any response from the public or the media.
Our first priority has been and will continue to be ensuring the safety and protection of our students and the teaching and learning environment, even as we balance district policies and Illinois law regarding employment matters with tenured staff and faculty.
On Sept. 18, we will receive a report from our attorneys with recommendations on the next steps the Board of Education should take regarding Mr. Craig or any other district employees associated with this matter.
As educators, it is incumbent upon all of us to consider the total impact of our actions so that ultimately we achieve our No. 1 goal of preparing our youths for success in school and in life.
Donna Simpson Leak is superintendent of the Rich Township High School District 227 in Matteson.