The case has never left my mind, and it returns every time someone talks about how easy it is to fire teachers when they do wrong.

It’s 2010 in Minneapolis, and Thomas Cross, a public school music teacher, is fighting his termination from Minneapolis Public Schools.

Here are the charges (taken directly from his arbitration grievance).

In June of 2005 he received a “Notice of Deficiency” and a two-day suspension for “conduct unbecoming a teacher.”

In October of 2007 he received another “Notice of Deficiency” and a “written reprimand” for “inefficiency in teaching and insubordination.”

In 2008 he was suspended for three days, again for “conduct unbecoming a teacher” and “insufficiency in teaching.”

Later in 2008 he was suspended again for three days after he was accused of retaliating against a student.

Finally, in 2009 he was disciplined for intimidating a student in a “manner unbecoming a teacher” (is there a way to intimidate a student that is becoming of a teacher? Just asking).

After that last infraction district administrators put him on leave (with pay) while they recommended his dismissal to the school board.

In presenting their case, they got specific and the details are ridiculous.

Cross was reported to have threatened a student saying he would “cut off the student’s head and pour orange juice down his throat.”

In one school he was counseled for using “inappropriate language” and suspended for confronting a student at his bus stop.

At another school he was given a five-day suspension for allegedly threatening a student he thought instigated the “conduct unbecoming a teacher” disciplinary action.

He was also accused of attempting to tape a student to a chair in band class;

Cross’ union reps from the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers countered with a superbly cynical defense. They called Cross a “very effective educator.

He only meant the “cut off your head” thing as a joke, and by the way, research supports that sort of humor as a way of building rapport with 5th graders, which is applicable to Cass’ 7th grade students.

Besides, four of the ten students interviewed “trumped up exaggerated allegations and should have no credibility.”

Bottom line, you can’t believe kids. They lie.

The arbitrator concluded that the final incident at issue, threatening to tape a student to a chair, was unacceptable, but not bad enough to be fired. However, all these other infractions create a pattern that forecast future trouble.

“The Grievant’s employment history indicates that corrective discipline has not been effective in forestalling his tendency to exhibit “conduct unbecoming a teacher.”

So, after five years, Cross was fired.

It’s one case, if you need others I can happily provide them.


Grievance Arbitration: Thomas Cross by Citizen Stewart on Scribd



Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.


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