CHICAGO (CN) - A Chicago public school suspended a teacher without pay for showing his students a little pocket knife, "as part of a curriculum-mandated 'tool discussion,'" the teacher claims in court.
Douglas Bartlett sued the Chicago School District No. 299 and his principal, Valeria Newell, in Federal Court.
Bartlett was a second-grade teacher at Washington Irving Elementary School, on Chicago's South Side, when he was suspended, in the 2011-12 school year. He was in his 17th year with the school district.
"This is a suit for violation for plaintiff's constitutional due process rights resulting from the overzealous application of political correctness," the complaint states. "Plaintiff, a school teacher, showed to his students a pocket knife, as part of a curriculum-mandated 'tool discussion.' Other garden-variety tools plaintiff used in the discussion were a box cutter, various wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers. As a result of showing a pocket knife, plaintiff was charged with bringing a weapon to school, and received a four-day suspension without pay. Plaintiff sues for money damages and to have this suspension expunged from his record. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for redress of the deprivation under color of statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage of certain rights secured to him by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and under the Illinois Constitution."
Bartlett claims that because of the curriculum requirement, he "displayed to his second-grade students several garden-variety tools, including a box cutter, a 2.25-inch pocketknife, wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers. The visual aids were used in an effort to facilitate student understanding and remembrance of the curriculum. As he displayed the box cutter and pocketknife, plaintiff specifically described the proper uses of these tools. Neither of these items was made accessible to the students."
Nonetheless, the next day, "an area observer" complained about him. "As a result of this complaint, plaintiff was charged with possessing, carrying, storing, or using a weapon; negligently supervising children; inattention to duty; violating school rules; and repeated flagrant acts."
He was given a hearing in September, and Newell suspended him without pay for four days, according to the complaint.
He seeks nominal and compensatory damages for constitutional violations, and costs.
He is represented by Dmitry Feofanov with The Rutherford Institute, of Lyndon, Ill.
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