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When I got word yesterday that central office inspectors were hauling in kids from the classroom to interrogate them about their teachers, I said—no way!
Mayor Emanuel may be hardheaded, vindictive, and pugnacious, but he would not—I repeat, not—stoop so low as to force grammar school kids to rat on their teachers.
Hear that, Mayor E.? When push came to shove, I defended you. That's correct. Far from being one of your knee-jerk opponents, I was, instead, a knee-jerk defender.
'Cause I love you, man.
Then it turned out—it's true! Central office inspectors really were interrogating kids without parent notification at Drummond elementary school about their teachers and the ISAT.
Dang, Mayor Rahm—you're killing me. I mean, it's one thing to close schools and fire teachers. But bringing in kids for questioning? What's next—faking protests in favor of school closings? Oh, wait, you did that already . . .
Back to Drummond . . .
"I got a call at 10:30 [AM] from a parent who said something crazy is going on," says Jonathan Goldman, chair of the Drummond LSC. "Two CPS inspectors from the law department were pulling kids from the class one by one."
Goldman says he doesn't know how many kids were called in for questioning. But they were as young as third-graders. And they were being asked about the ISAT. "They were pulling in kids as young as eight years old," says Goldman.
Explanation! The ISAT is a standardized test that CPS officials insists kids take even though they—the officials—are phasing it out.
Over the last few weeks, it's been the subject of a minirevolt. Hundreds of parents have requested that their children opt out of taking it. And dozens of teachers—including several at Drummond—declared that they could not in good conscience give it.
In response, CPS officials threatened to punish teachers who don't give the test, perhaps by stripping them of their state certification, thus making them virtually unemployable. Here—read all about it.
Goldman headed over to Drummond soon after he heard about the interrogations.
"I asked one of the CPS investigators what authority they had to do this without getting permission from parents, and he said 'in loco parentis.'"
"That's an old legal doctrine. It's Latin for 'in place of the parents.'"
Oh, God, I love it when CPS officials break into their Latin.
"Generally, it's intended for cases of a medical emergency," Goldman explains. "Like when school officials can give children medicine."
As opposed to grilling little Johnny about what he knew and when he knew it.
By the way, Drummond—which is in Bucktown—is a relatively middle-class school with no shortage of lawyers among its parent body.
So presumably, messing with Drummond kids will carry more consequences for the mayor than, oh, closing scores of schools in poor south- and west-side neighborhoods.
In any case, the investigators asked the kids what their teachers had told them about taking the ISAT, says Goldman.
"I think their point is that teachers are not supposed to be on the clock telling kids they should opt out of the ISAT," says Goldman.
Clearly, this whole interrogation thing violates the mayor's assertion that every minute in school is sacred. He invoked that theme when parents pulled their kids from school to protest his plan to divert tens of millions of TIF dollars from CPS to build a basketball arena for DePaul and a hotel for Marriott.
So apparently it's OK for kids to miss valuable class time to rat on their teachers. But it's not OK to miss time to oppose the mayor's TIF deals.
After outraged Drummond parents called CPS to complain, a CPS spokesman issued one of the system's classic explanations: "CPS officials only spoke with students who opted to talk with them."
How reassuring. I hope the eight-year-olds were notified of their Miranda rights.
One more time—the ISAT is meaningless test. It's being phased out. It plays no role in high school or college placement. So this whole showdown is little more than another attempt by Mayor Emanuel to show CTU president Karen Lewis that his thing is bigger than hers.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Hold it—breaking news!!!
I just got word that CPS investigators are interrogating kids at Saucedo elementary. Teachers and parents are going to have a press conference this afternoon.
Oh brother, Mayor E.—you're making it harder and harder for me to defend you.