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NCLB Outrages

School district, ex-teacher settle suit for $250,000: Criticism of testing led to free-speech fight

Ohanian Comment: Someone sent me a description of this a few weeks ago. I find it hard to comprehend that a teacher can't protest anything she wants to protest, including standardized testing. Maybe every teacher should try ridiculing NCLB and see if they, too, can collect big bucks.

By Lisa Black

A former Evanston middle school teacher will get $250,000 and a letter affirming her teaching skills from Evanston-Skokie School District 65 in a settlement announced Thursday of a lawsuit over her ridiculing federal testing requirements.

Vikki Proctor sued her former employer in U.S. District Court in Chicago in June 2004, alleging the district violated her free-speech rights by transferring her to another building after her protest.

"I feel completely vindicated," Proctor said Thursday. "This current administration doesn't seem to be comfortable with teacher opinions."

Proctor and two other teachers were reprimanded in December 2003 after they displayed a skeleton in the teachers lounge at Evanston's King Laboratory School to protest new testing mandates. The skeleton was clad in a Michael Jordan basketball jersey and covered with signs such as "I am a Texas scholar; that is an oxyMoron."

The teachers apologized and removed the skeleton after three co-workers interpreted the display as a depiction of lynching. Proctor said the idea to hang signs on the skeleton came after she read a newspaper article questioning the success of Texas state tests that served as a model for President Bush's new requirements.

Within a week, school officials transferred Proctor from King Lab School--where she had previously clashed with administrators during her 18 years there--to the district's alternative school for student discipline cases.

She resigned the job last year, one day after filing the lawsuit. The settlement states she will not again seek employment at District 65. Proctor said she has retired from teaching.

School officials said the settlement does not admit wrongdoing.

"The board's decision to settle the suit is based on our belief that it is in the best interest of Evanston taxpayers not to go to trial," Supt. Hardy Murphy said in a statement. "The expense of a trial could easily exceed the cost of the settlement."

District 65 will pay Proctor $130,000, and the district's insurance company will pay an additional $120,000, according to the statement.

A few years before the skeleton incident, school officials tried to transfer Proctor but decided against it after dozens of her 8th graders protested outside the administration building.

— Lisa Black
Chicago Tribune


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