DHS Suspension: Why isn’t this issue resolved?

A few weeks ago, we reported that the high school under pressure from the school board and upper administration, had rescinded the suspension of a Davis High School student that stemmed from the student’s Human Relations Week speech on an incident where the student’s Malcolm X poster was removed from the classroom by a teacher who stated it was promoting terrorism. At that point we had reported that because of the fast action by the school board and others, that the school district had likely avoided legal action. However, since then the situation has begun to deteriorate.

The first problem was that the teacher refused to return to her class with the student in attendance. This produced a huge problem for the school and the students because the AP Calculus Test was approaching and they had no substitute teachers with enough knowledge of calculus to take over the class. This was temporarily resolved by having the other calculus teacher take over the class. However, the school now appears to want the student to move to the other class, which is at a different time and would severely disrupt the rest of his schedule for the last five or six weeks of school. This for a suspension that has now been rescinded.

To make matters worse, an article appeared on Friday in the HUB, the student newspaper that quoted from a memo from the DHS site representatives for the Davis Teachers’ Association. We have obtained a copy of this memo, which is a public record.

The memo dated April 23, 2007 makes three key points.


“The staff of Davis Senior High school would like to voice its concern over the possibility of the rescission of a suspension for a DSHS student. “


“The DSHS staff is concerned about the precedent that would be set if this suspension is rescinded.”


“For these reasons, the staff is also concerned that the student has not been transferred from the classroom of a staff member whose reputation was attacked by said student during his speech.”

They then conclude:

“The DSHS staff through its Site Liaison requests that the suspension not be rescinded and that the student be transferred to another classroom in order to promote a safe environment for all at DSHS.”

This memo has apparently caused a number of problems as it appears that the administration at the school still has not put this situation to rest. Moreover, the DTA at the high school has caused tension by speaking on behalf of all teachers when it is not clear that all teachers are in support of their insertion into this situation.

Don Winters, a popular teacher and past president of the DTA as well as a known activist in the city of Davis disagreed with the memo and expressed concern that they had made the decision to publish it without full discussion from the membership at the high school. Moreover, he did not think the memo was appropriate or agree with their conclusions. The HUB then quotes him as saying, “I’ve already expressed my displeasure.”

However, the HUB itself caused some controversy, when it prominently attributed the quote, “I’m not calling her a biggot or a racist, but your actions reflect who you are.” In fact, another student was the one who used that line and somehow it got attributed to Mr. Winters in the paper. That caused more problems and eventually led to a retraction in Monday’s HUB.

At this point, the insertion of the DTA into this process has caused additional problems and headaches to a situation that should have been resolved a few weeks ago when the district rescinded the suspension. At this point, a lawsuit is almost inevitable. There has been serious disruption to this student’s academic year and to the other student’s academic year and climate.

The HUB reports that as a result of this incident, the student body and administration have changed their policies on speeches.

“For assemblies in the future, there will be a much more strict policy on speeches, [on] who will be able to speak and the approval process to ensure that speeches that have been approved are the ones given.” [Quote attributed in the HUB to Associated Student Body President Joe Glass].

Of course, after reading the speeches, the problem did not appear to be in the fact that the student changed the speech, but rather in the approval process itself that allowed the original speech to go forward.

I remain concerned about the well-being of the teacher as well, who has apparently not handled this situation very well first by choosing to confront the student in public, next by overreacting to the speech, then by refusing to return to class, and now apparently by leaving school once again when this article came out in the paper. There have been a number of other problems that have surfaced about this teacher that give one serious pause as to her fitness to teach high school at this point in her career. This is unfortunate, because these do not seem to be malicious mistakes, but rather a series of blunders without proper support from his site administration.

In the end, I think everyone involved is hurt by this incident and a teaching moment is devolving into a legal fight that no one will win in the end.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting


  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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