The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 11, 2013

Anson Burlingame, guest columnist: Joplin School Board makes wise decision

By Anson Burlingame
Special to The Globe

— The Joplin Board of Education made a careful and wise decision to terminate the teaching contract of Randy Turner, a middle school communications teacher.

It was not an easy decision, but the best interests of local public education have been served by the board in a unanimous vote.

Turner was accused of multiple violations of school policies over a significant period of time. He never argued that he was unaware of such policy restrictions or that he disagreed with any specific policy. He also was unsuccessful in his testimony to demonstrate that policy violations had not occurred. In other words, he and his defense team failed to refute the charges leveled against him.

The only real defense was that charges should never have been filed against him in the first place. Actions by the Joplin school administration were called a “witch hunt,” among other demeaning phrases. Testifying students, parents and a few teachers supported that position on the part of the defense.

Obviously, the school board agreed that such was not the case and that the charges were warranted.

But consider what really generated the case: the publication and promotion of a book,” No Child Left Alive.” If there had been no book, probably no case would have been brought against Turner. Any American can write and publish just about any book. But publishing anything must be undertaken knowing the potential consequences.

The material may well generate disagreement. Some significant disagreements might result in legal actions in the workplace. No professional should feel free to publicly condemn his profession in outrageous terms without expecting some reaction.

I submit that Turner, as a writer, failed miserably to publish a legitimate satire against the government education program, No Child Left Behind. No one in their right mind would use that book to promote changes to that government program. The book was nothing more than the depiction of sexually explicit rumor-mongering and illegal activities by a broad swath of students, teachers and administrators.

Yes, the book was indeed creative, scandalously creative. It also did nothing to promote reasonable political opposition to a government education program, in my view. But that was not the basis for removing Turner from the classroom. That action was taken solely on the basis of Turner’s policy violations.

The school board made a good and right decision in the best interests of public education in Joplin.

Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin. He attended a 10-hour personnel hearing for Randy Turner on May 23.