Every year about this time this irritating thing happens in school districts throughout Texas. An illegal irritating thing that, because it is not widely known that it is illegal, keeps on happening, and that is what make it irritating to me.
Every June Texas graduates hundreds of thousands of high school seniors from its public school system. Now in Texas, graduation ceremonies are strictly supervised because, you know, you never know what the kids are going to do.
This has been something that must have happened since the 1980’s. When I graduated high school with my classmates we sat there alone on a football field with all of the supervisory people on stage.
We were alone.
Not so today. Today every row has at least two adults to supervise the students, shepherding them through a tedious process of sitting still, standing, and then a brief moment of glory alone and unsupervised as they walk across the stage.
So with larger classes, you see, they need a lot of people to supervise these ceremonies. They need a lot of teachers.
Now in the old days, teachers were more than willing to volunteer to participate in graduation ceremonies. It was fun. It was a last chance to see the kids that some helped to mold into our future citizens.
It was fun.
Then about 10 years ago, what was once a voluntary act became “mandatory.” All teachers were expected to attend graduation or their pay would be docked. Now this is OK with me. I’d rather be paid sitting in a hard seat for an hour and a half than being paid sweating while getting the classroom ready for summer break.
But then they started mandating that teachers do this after their contracts expired. Unpaid labor.
Slavery, in other words.
One teacher, in 2001 thought this might be illegal, and in a court decision that was upheld in 2010 by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Kelley vs. North East Independent School District, a Texas school district, the court held for the plaintiff, ruling that the school district had violated the teacher’s contract in requiring him to work one day after his contract had expired.
He was awarded damages.
None of that is known, or knowable among the average teacher community, so when school districts continue to require this unpaid labor, no one complains. No one knows that they can.
The purpose of education, someone once told me, was to stamp out ignorance. It is ironic to me that ignorance is not only promoted, it is almost required.
School districts should regard it as in their own best interests to employ informed teachers. But ironically it works out better for districts if they are not as educated as they should be.