LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District says its representatives “will not be rushed” into deciding the fate of an award-winning teacher recently removed from the classroom, citing “serious issues” uncovered in its investigation.
Rafe Esquith, a teacher at Hobart Elementary in Koreatown, became the subject of controversy after a fellow teacher reportedly complained about Esquith reciting a passage from Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in the classroom.
Although details of the official complaint remain unclear, the literary classic, first published in 1884, has been criticized for continual use of the N-word.
Esquith secured high-powered lawyer Mark Geragos to represent him in the matter.
But a spokesperson for LAUSD said Friday its representatives will not be intimidated into making a decision after Geragos issued an ultimatum, threatening legal action if the LAUSD refuses to publicly apologize and let Esquith get back to work.
“This is a very complex issue,” Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said.
“While I respect that this teacher is extremely popular — and has been for some time — in the briefings that have been given to me, there are serious issues that go beyond the initial investigation,” Cortines continued.
“The Los Angeles Unified School District will not be rushed to make a decision and will complete our investigation with the highest level of integrity. The safety and security of every District student will remain our number one priority.”
A district spokesperson last week told CBS2/KCAL9 Esquith is still on the payroll. He is left in what parents have called “teacher jail.”
More than 50 parents and students rallied in front of the school to show their support Thursday.
Geragos had not immediately commented on LAUSD’s posturing.
However, in a statement released to CBS2/KCAL9 Monday, the lawyer was firm in his stance.
“The state of California has thoroughly investigated and cleared Rafe, who is a nationally recognized and award-winning teacher. If LAUSD does not immediately reinstate Rafe and issue a public apology, we will file immediate legal action,” Geragos said.