CA Teacher Harassed for Advising Gay-Straight Alliance
by CA Pol Junkie
There is a reason why teachers (at least here in California) are granted tenure after working a few years. It means that if a teacher makes a commitment to a community and does a good job, they won't lose their job because of school politics. Unfortunately, this does not mean they won't be driven to resign by a school's administration. In this case, what got the teacher in trouble was being faculty advisor to the Gay-Straight Alliance.
We think of California as among the bluest of blue states, an enlightened place (even if we do silly things every now and then), a leader in the fight for equality for all its citizens. The city of Rocklin, while geographically in California, can seem like another world entirely. It is a deep red exurb of Sacramento, in a county which gave George W. Bush 63% last November. Though it is rapidly growing and changing demographically, the motto on the city's website states, "A Family Community Growing Together". Awww... isn't that special! For the dark side of exurbia, follow across the flip.
Brandee Ambrosia was a teacher at Rocklin High School for 11 years. She was well-liked by the students, had National Board Certification in teaching, coached sports, and sponsored clubs. She recently resigned, claiming harrassment by the administration for advising the Gay-Straight Alliance club on campus.
Ambrosia, who has taught at Rocklin High School for 11 years, attributed her resignation to the discrimination she alleges she has received as a result of being club adviser to the Gay-Straight Alliance. The GSA had been the center of much controversy among RHS students, parents and teachers ever since its emergence last year.
Ms. Ambrosia's resignation letter shows how a good teacher is forced out of her job:
To explain my situation, it went something like this. As many of you know, I was told in June by an administrator that my teaching duties had been reassigned to World History. Anybody that knows me, knows my passion and expertise to be government and economics, so why the change? The administration offered a vague response, identifying their perception of my shortcomings as a teacher. I asked for examples of these shortcomings, yet was given none. I was shocked. In an attempt to get reconsideration, I then provided over 20 pages of documentation demonstrating my effectiveness as a teacher including letters outlining the negative impact on curriculum this move would have on RHS kids. These letters came from our respected colleagues Mark Hardy, Susan Espana, Colleen Crowe, and Krista Potter. This evidence was ignored and I was told the decision was final and would not be changed. Again, the administration provided not one example or situation that would explain this perception.
It was clear in my mind at that point that the explanation given was actually a set of smoke and mirrors for what was really an act of discipline for my willingness to advise the Gay Straight Alliance Club that had been vehemently opposed by the administration. I knew this to be retaliatory, because other colleagues who had stepped out of line from the plan of administration had been treated in a similar manner in the past and there was not another legitimate precedent for this type of reassignment. Keep in mind I had had 3 official meetings with administration and at no point was I given a single example that justified the move. At that point, I made my case of discrimination, hostility and intimidation officially clear with another 20 pages of documentation including letters from students, the other GSA advisor, and emails all pointing to a pattern that would explain this kind of attack. The details of this case are not appropriate to share as they should be part of a district investigation that has not and probably will not occur.
This is the intolerance of a community trying to isolate itself from that which it finds uncomfortable, and it hurts teachers, students, and the community itself. The only way to beat it is to shine a bright light on it and be forever vigilant in our own communities. Teachers who are willing to take a stand for their students are the most valuable of all, and we need to support them so they will continue being advocates for our children.