By JIM SULLINGER
The Kansas City Star
A teacher said an offhand comment about the shape of Florida led to his firing this week, but the Shawnee Mission School District said there were other incidents.
Now eighth-grade students at Mission Valley Middle School in Prairie Village will not let the firing of science teacher Ryan Haraughty fade quietly away.
A group of about 50 cut classes Wednesday and demonstrated for a second day outside the school waving homemade signs urging drivers along Mission Road to honk their support for Haraughty, whom the Shawnee Mission Board of Education fired Monday.
Haraughty, who worked for the school district for 10 years, said that the firing stemmed from a recent incident when he drew a picture of the United States and one of his students noticed that Florida was out of proportion. The student asked Haraughty about the error.
The teacher’s response, which he said Monday he regretted, was: “Florida got excited.”
Shawnee Mission officials issued a statement Wednesday suggesting that Haraughty was misleading parents, students and the media by calling attention to one incident.
“The termination of Mr. Haraughty’s contract was not based on one incident,” the statement read. “The decision was based on numerous incidents over an extended period of time.”
District officials said they could not release details of these other incidents.
Haraughty said there were two other incidents, one during his first year at the school and another during his fifth year. He said statements he made had been misconstrued and taken out of context; he said that everyone on occasion says things that are taken the wrong way.
“That doesn’t make me unique,” he said, adding that the current complaint came from a parent.
Leigh Anne Neal, a district spokeswoman, said the student demonstrators will be marked as absent without an excuse. School officials notified the students and the parents of the students who demonstrated outside the school rather than attend class that they will not receive credit for missed work.
More than 300 parents, students and teachers came to Monday’s termination hearing to support Haraughty and urge the board to keep him.
To reach Jim Sullinger, call 816-234-7701 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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