DC Teacher Accused of Fathering Special Needs Student's Child: Rhee

Schools chancellor defends previous comments on laid-off teachers

By Asha Beh
|  Sunday, Feb 21, 2010  |  Updated 8:49 AM EDT
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Teacher Accused of Fathering Special Needs Student's Child

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Months after Washington, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee laid off 266 teachers last October, she told a national business magazine that she "got rid of teachers who had hit children" and "who had had sex with children."

As NBC's Tom Sherwood noted, Rhee's inflammatory quote in Fast Company magazine stunned parents and others. Now, in a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, Rhee defended her statement:

"It is DCPS' understanding that the student continues to maintain that her former teacher is the father of her child and is seeking to establish paternity," Rhee wrote. "She is receiving assistance from relevant District social services agencies."

Rhee did not name the teacher, student or school in the Feb. 12 letter, but she did reveal that police and prosecutors told school officials that because of the student's age, the allegation did not warrant criminal investigation, the Washington Post reported. 

School officials began an investigation, however, and Rhee said the probe was pending last fall when decisions about layoffs were made

Rhee had also said that six of the fired teachers had been suspended for varying charges of corporal punishment, but in her letter to Gray, she changed the number to five, according the Washington Post.

In discussing the Fast Company controversy Friday on WAMU's "Kojo Nnamdi Show," Rhee told Nnamdi and Sherwood, a resident analyst for the show, that "part of the problem is that niceness doesn't sell newspapers or magazines."

"I can say all these things about how many great teachers we have and how they deserve to be recognized and rewarded, but if, during the course of that interview, I also say we have teachers that don't belong in the classroom and need to be moved along, then often times, that's what the news is. It's not the media's fault, but that dynamic exists," she said.

But Rhee added that doesn't mean the schools system should downplay the reality of what's happening and that changes are needed in the "progressive discipline and grievance process."

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