"i have no interest in learning anything. i hate my job. i am depressed about teaching and I want to learn nothing, read nothing, research nothing. I just want to drink." -an email written by Andrew Harris on Wed, Nov 4, 2009
A few years ago, I and a small group of fellow moms went over to the district office to review the evidence against Andrew Harris. We went over with light hearts expecting to giggle over some inappropriate pictures and jokes. I even nicknamed our outing "Monday Morn Porn," and we laughed at the irony that I was returning to my old elementary school (years ago the district office was Elm Lawn School) to look at naked girly pictures. We thought we would find the administration was over-reacting to this scandal.
We had chosen that particular Monday to review the file against Harris because that night the school board was voting on whether or not to continue to spend our tax dollars on this case. We wanted to be informed before we gave our recommendations to the board. We settled in to a little conference room and poured over the binder of evidence.
Our light-hearted moods quickly vanished.
Besides the plethora of pornography the district discovered on his computer, they also found many emails written by Harris, like the one above. Some of the emails pertained to "Operation Shun" which Harris put in effect against the teacher who reported him. Judging by his emails and further staff interviews, he very successfully made the whistler-blower's life miserable.
I have noticed the media refers to Harris' emails as "racy". His emails are far from racy. They contain hard core pornography, including videos. I would describe some of them but then this letter would be unprintable. I would also discuss how he spoke about the female students in his class, but again, this might then be unprintable. There are facts in this case that you must go discover for yourself because I can not repeat them here.
For parents, though, this case is not just about the inappropriate materials Harris had on his computer. In fact, this case isn't even just about Harris anymore. It is far more serious than that.
This case destroyed the fundamental trust we parents once had in our children's teachers. We now question every teacher's integrity.
This case has destroyed the trust we had in the power of our school board. We now question if our school board truly has the authority to protect our children.
This case has destroyed the trust we have in our court system. We now question if they care about our children at all.
This case has destroyed any trust we may have had in Tony Evers, the state Superintendent at the Department of Public Instruction. We question if he even knows what his job is.
Evers could have reviewed this case years ago and revoked Harris' teaching license. A law was passed unanimously by both parties giving the State Superintendent the power to pull the license of a teacher that views pornography while at school. Had Evers done that, he would have simply and effectively put an end to this expensive case. He would have saved our district hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Possibly he is afraid to revoke Harris' license at this point because he fears we'll make him responsible for the bill.
Evers' office said it has been investigating this case for the last four years and have still not come to a decision.
Listening to parents at that Monday night school board meeting years ago, it was clear that four years is an excessively long time to review this case. They knew, as one father pointed out, that at any other workplace (including jobs in industries that do not involve children), if a person was found to have material like Harris' on their work computer, that individual would be fired.
In regards to the Harris case, it is past time for Tony Evers to put our children's best interests over all others. The education and safety of our kids should be his first priority.
It is time for Tony Evers to show us parents that someone out there does indeed have the power to look out for our children and is not afraid to do so.