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Council Members Say They Still Want Answers To Teacher Allegations

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D.C. Council Members Marion Barry, Michael Brown and Harry Thomas are not satisfied with Chancellor Michelle Rhee's explanation of her comments about teachers.
Kavitha Cardoza
D.C. Council Members Marion Barry, Michael Brown and Harry Thomas are not satisfied with Chancellor Michelle Rhee's explanation of her comments about teachers.

By Kavitha Cardoza

D.C. School's Chancellor Michelle Rhee has answered demands to explain her controversial statements that last year's layoffs were connected with teacher misconduct but some council members are not satisfied with her explanation.

The controversy began when Rhee told a national business magazine that she, in her words, "got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," when she laid off 266 teachers and staff last October.

Some City Council members demanded an explanation, and Rhee responded today in a letter. She says one teacher faced serious allegations of sexual misconduct, and the case was referred to the police. That person was on administrative leave before the layoffs. She says six of the laid off D.C. Public School employees had been suspended for hitting students, while two others had been absent without an explanation on multiple occasions. Rhee says she was trying to explain why teacher performance, and not just seniority, is important while deciding which teachers to lay off.

But some Council Members weren't buying her explanation. Marion Barry called this a "pattern of disrespect."

"This is the latest incident where she has spoken disrespectfully and lying about the nature of the firings," says Barry.

D.C. Council Member Harry Thomas says her letter has only infuriated him further.

"How could you act so irresponsible and put out allegations against so many and have evidence against so few," he says.

A hearing is still expected about whether proper procedures were followed, what evidence there was and why Rhee did not tell the council or the union about these teachers.

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