Bremen High School District 228 outside of Chicago says they will not honor superintendent Richard Mitchell’s contract through 2009 because of a spoof video (watch) he created for the opening day teacher institute in which rookie teachers’ job interviews were re-edited for the purpose of getting a laugh. Mitchell took interviewees’ honest answers and edited in new questions intended to create humor.
Here’s one exchange:
“Do you have a nickname?” Mitchell asked.
“Predator,” the teacher said.
“How do you like to unwind?” Mitchell asked.
“I enjoy a lot of leisure activities,” the teacher said.
“Such as?” Mitchell asked.
“Killing,” the teacher said.
Mitchell also suggests in the video that a martini is a great stress release. The video was posted on the School District’s website, where it hadn’t been in years past, for the public and students to view. Many in the school district aren’t laughing.
But Mitchell says the tape is being used as a scapegoat for the real reason the school district no longer wants to honor his contract: because he’s gay.
Jim Madigan of Lambda Legal, the LGBT civil rights organization, has become involved, according to the Chicago Sun-Times: “Madigan said witnesses claim school board president Evelyn Gleason has referred to Mitchell with homophobic slurs and is trying to run him out of the district because of his sexual orientation. Mitchell also claims that Gleason retaliated against him after she learned of the pending lawsuit by giving the spoof video to WBBM-Channel 2 and saying she was outraged by it. Madigan said Gleason sat next to and laughed along with Mitchell in August when the video was shown at an all-staff opening day institute.”
Witnesses to the district agree with Mitchell’s claim, according to Madigan, and teacher union president Jim Kane is standing behind him as well. The school board will hold a meeting tonight to decide Mitchell’s fate.
Probably a very poor decision for Mitchell to put the video on the website. It gave the allegedly homophobic Gleason something to run with, and certainly does nothing to dignify the noble career of teaching. A video that may seem hilarious in a closed-door, private confab can have an entirely different effect when left without explanation on the internet. Context is incredibly important. A school superintendent should be wise to that.