by Kevin Burton
At work you shouldn’t expect pay for, and at school you shouldn’t expect credit for, work you didn’t do.
I give you that conclusion up front, lest it be lost in this strange little tale. There is weirdness in this story, I warn you.
The first strange thing is for some reason msn.com ran this story a couple of weeks ago as if it were new. I try to read three or four versions of the stories I highlight on Page 7. This time the other versions indicated they were written in 2018.
That is weird. But I think the story is worth telling.
This is the story of a middle-school social studies teacher in Florida who was fired, she said, for expecting her students to do their work and not giving them credit when they didn’t.
. West Gate School, a K-8 public school in Port St Lucie, Florida, had a “no zeros” policy printed in its student-parent handbook. Teachers were to give grades no lower than 50 percent, even if the student did not turn it any of the work.
Teacher Diane Tirado ignored the no-zeros policy and was fired.
“For the first assignment of the semester, Tirado asked that her students keep a journal, the way a 15th-century explorer would, for two weeks. They were required to take down notes about historical events and draw maps in what the teacher of 17-years called an “explorer’s notebook,” wrote New York Post reporter Tamar Lapin.
“But parents soon started to complain about what they said was too hefty a homework load, Tirado said. ‘I got called down to the principal’s office because parents were not happy with me. It was ruining my life for weeks.”
“It was during one such visit to the principal’s office that Tirado learned about the “No Zero” policy, she said.”
“But when a group in her class didn’t hand the homework in, she said she didn’t think they deserved any credit, let alone 50 percent.”
“I’m used to kids not handing in work… but then chasing them until the report cards are in to make sure they make it up,” with extra credit, she said. “But I don’t give a grade for nothing.”
“She was fired on Sept. 14. less than two months after getting hired at the school. There’s no official cause mentioned in the letter from the principal. Regardless, she said she knows why she was let go.
“I loudly bucked the system,” she said. “I refused to do their policy. I guess you would call that defiance.”
On her last day, she left her students with the following message on their whiteboard: “Bye kids. Mrs. Tirado loves you and wishes you the best in life!”
“I have been fired for refusing to give you a 50% for not handing anything in,” she added.
“The image of her final message, which she posted to Facebook Saturday, has been shared over 1,000 times.”
“It’s absurd to give someone something for nothing and to do that is creating a future that is pretty darn bleak,” she said. “We’re creating monsters out of our children. We give them too much. People that experience that kind of childhood then that’s what you want, you’re entitled for the rest of your life.”
“The school, through a spokesman, denied that it has a no-zeros policy.
“There is no district or individual school policy prohibiting teachers from recording a grade of zero for work not turned in,” the spokesman said.
But Tirado says the policy is outlined in the West Gate student and parent handbook, which says in bright red capital letters, “NO ZERO’S – LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%,” according to an image she provided to The Post.
The website heavy.com printed a copy of the handbook, which indeed contains the notation Tirado sent to the New York Post.
Please don’t miss the fact that the school district wrote “NO ZERO’S” in the handbook, with an apostrophe where there should not be one.
Lydia Martin, Chief Communications Officer for St. Lucie Public Schools said that no-zeros, “is not a policy of ours now or then.”
Since the handbook seems to state otherwise pretty clearly, what we probably have here is a Bill Clinton-esque “it depends on what is means.” kind of deal. If true, that is weird.
Martin declined further comment saying “there is pending litigation from this.”
Clicking the student handbook link on the West Gate School website now gets you “file not found.” That made me chuckle.
My first thought was Tirado couldn’t sue, because she either read or should have read the handbook before signing her contract. If she couldn’t live with the policy, she should not have taken the job. But apparently some sort of wrongful termination suit is in progress.
In a 2018 statement to WPTV, West Palm Beach, the school district denied that they had fired Tirado over the school’s grading policy.
“[Tirado was] released from her duties as an instructor because her performance was deemed sub-standard and her interactions with students, staff, and parents lacked professionalism and created a toxic culture on the school’s campus,” the statement reads.
Well, I have no more time for this, as I have some Steely Dan research to attend to. So, this will be the ruling of Presiding Central Kansas District Blogger Judge Kevin Burton:
In failing to adhere to the no-zeros policy that the school district never had, teacher Diane Tirado deserves a zero. In this case “zero” will be interpreted as 50 percent. She is to receive back pay and benefits, and attorney fees equivalent to 50 percent.
Solomon himself couldn’t render a judgment any better.
As a parent, and now a grandparent, I’m afraid I whole heartedly agree with her! This business of giving credit to kids for nothing is no good. I recall a time when in a public school English class, I was the only one to pass an open book test! The entire class was made to take that test over. I did not have to since I passed the first time. All those other kids, however, were not just given some random grade but had to take the test over. As I recall it, everyone did pass that second time around. Some may still not have gotten a high grade, but at least they did pass and they did the work.
Tracy Duffy firstname.lastname@example.org
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