May 06, 2005

Suburban Atlanta teacher fired for flunking sleeping football player

Dacula High School science teacher Larry "Doc" Neace was fired by the Gwinnett County School Board last night.

Neace was found insubordinate after failing a football player who fell asleep in his class, and refusing direct orders to change the student's grade. District rules prohibit teachers from using grades as a punitive measure.

Neace, a 23-year veteran of the suburban Atlanta school system, cut the grade of said football player in half after observing the student sleeping. The student whined to his daddy, who in turn whined to the school administration.

"What we have in this case is a case of a pampered football athlete sleeping in class and being given favored treatment on an academic grade," said Neace's lawyer, Michael Kramer. "What we have here is the principal essentially attempting to coerce and intimidate a teacher."

School officials said they gave Neace a chance to restore the football player's grade. When he refused, they sent him home. He has not been allowed back at school since April 14, when he was told he could resign or face being fired.

School officials on Thursday argued their case before the Gwinnett school board, which weighed the teacher's fate into the early morning hours. The hearing at school district offices in Lawrenceville lasted more than five hours.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks recommended to the board that Neace be fired. "He cannot have a policy that supersedes board policy," Wilbanks said. "He had no right to do that."

Neace said he had a practice of reducing the grades of students who waste time or sleep in class. His course syllabus warns that wasting class time can "earn a zero for a student on assignments or labs." No administrators had previously complained about the practice, which he adopted more than a decade ago, Neace said.

School officials said Thursday that it appeared Neace allowed students to sleep in class. "He said it was not his job to wake up students," Assistant Principal Donald Mason said.

When asked Thursday if students sleep in his class, Neace responded, "Very rarely."

Very rarely, indeed -- if you know that sleeping will cost you your grade, you won't sleep in the man's class. Sounds pretty simple to me.

This is a case of a pampered football player and a school administration whose priorities are completely screwed up. Mind you, the parents of the spoiled football player have taught their brat kid a valuable lesson. If you whine loud enough and long enough, hand-wringing administrators will give you whatever you want.

So much for personal responsibility.

Neace, in an interview on Atlanta radio station WSB this morning, said that he only wants to get back in the classroom. He loves teaching and he won't let this sour him on it.

Neace has plenty of support from students throughout Dacula High School, with signs and shirts being made in his favor. When the principal got up to speak at an assembly, the students chanted, "We want Doc!" The principal ignored them.

The principal is obviously a hand-wringing idiot more concerned about this football player than about education and commensurate discipline in his school.


Posted by mhking at May 6, 2005 08:12 AM

It's a shame something can't be done to the parents who have inflicted this lazy dolt on society.

Posted by: BobG at May 6, 2005 10:52 AM

Stop by and read my first hand account of a similar incident when I was teaching. Hand-wringing idiocy is more common among principals than most people imagine.

Semper Fi . . .

Posted by: Mustang at May 6, 2005 11:11 AM

If I suffered academically for sleeping in class, and I went to my parents to get them to make the teacher undo it, I'm pretty sure that discussion would have gone very badly for me.

I must have defective parents.

Posted by: Gib at May 6, 2005 12:04 PM

I don't know... it the board's policy seems rather clear, and failing someone for nodding off is pretty harsh. My teachers had a rule for these situations that was very effective: If you fall asleep, you lose your chair for the rest of the class.

Posted by: Lawrence at May 6, 2005 12:27 PM

Thanks for the additional details. I saw this over at Michelle Malkin's but your post gives more context.

Posted by: Chap at May 6, 2005 01:51 PM

Great post! My wife and eldest daughter are both educators in GA, one is a high school counselor and is one a brand-new elementary teacher. Both are in different county school systems. Both come back almost every week with horror stories about parents who will not allow their children to be accountable. It's always the teacher's fault in their self-focused and totally unaccountable little world. Or it's always racial. Or it's always somebody else's fault. It's the "dog ate my homework" excuse carried to the level of absurd pathology. And too many squishy school administrators just reflexively cave in to these unreasonable and neurotic pressures which such unbelieveably childish parents bring them. And who ultimately suffers? The kid, and the rest of the students. And of course, the teachers who remain unsupported in their futile effort to set higher standards.

I want to know what has happened to simple leadership that holds to a principle and regardless of whether it is popular or not, sticks by it? That this Gwinette teacher was fired is shameful.

Posted by: Politickal Animal at May 6, 2005 06:45 PM

I'm going to have to disagree with you folks -- but then what do I know, since I am only a teacher.

The simple fact here is that the student did A work and was given an F on the assignemtn for a disciplinary infraction. That is not only poor educational practice, but a violation of district policy. The man had a dozen other ways to deal with the situation -- anything from assigning a d-hall to calling the kid's coach (trust me -- I've had defensive linemen break down in tears when I've hit the coach's number on speed dial). He picked one that was banned by the district, and when he refused to abide by the policies set by his employer he was fired, and properly so.

Tell me -- how many of you would have gotten away with that sort of insubordination in YOUR workplace (or would allow it if you were an owner/manager)?

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at May 7, 2005 10:28 AM

Amen Rhymes! I was thinking the same thing reading the comments. If he does B work he should get a B. There were other ways to punish this kid.

The teacher is a nut.

Posted by: princec at May 8, 2005 06:15 PM

Someone needs to thank Mr. Cheek for raising such a stellar young man, who
in his somnolence rids us of the scourge known as the demanding teacher. Well done!

Posted by: Got My Mind Right! at May 8, 2005 09:27 PM

Is the glass half full, or half empty? The central issue in this conflict is the question of whether the docking of points from a grade for wasting time in class is a discipline issue (says GCPS)or an academic issue (says Doc Neace).

If you look at Mr. Neace’s grading policy in his syllabus he does not say directly that there will be points awarded for participation, and this fact was accurately pointed out by Wilbank’s attorney. However, in reply Doc Neace explained to Wilbanks attorney that participation “was built into his policy.” Doc sees ‘wasting time in class’ as a failure to participate.

‘Positive points awarded for participation’ in one class syllabus would apparently pass muster with the school system and board as an academic assessment, BUT the negative statement that ‘wasting time results in zero points’ is viewed by the school system and board as a discipline issue.

I think the school system is splitting hairs over the specific words used or not used in Doc Neace’s syllabus. So is the glass half full or half empty? If you state the negative or positive you still have the same result:

Participating = Not Wasting Time for points awarded or not deducted

Wasting Time = Not Participating for points deducted or points not awarded

Why doesn’t the local school system and board get it? Maybe someone at the State level will understand.
(I am a mom of three kids who were honor grads of Dacula HS. Principal Nutt, through his oppressive rules and resulting rock bottom morale has chased all of the good teachers to more faculty freindly schools.)

Posted by: Karen Armsby at May 9, 2005 11:49 AM

In fairness, if the boy earned an 'A' he deserves his 'A.' If he fell asleep in class then he risked not getting all of the information he needed for the test. If he is allowed to take the test (a better punishment would have been to not allow the boy to take the test), then he should be awarded whatever grade he earned.

I failed a class in High School for this exact reason, I cut the man's class too many times. I eaned an 'A', and got a 'F.' The irony, it was Business Law, and now I am a corporate attorney.

Posted by: stephen johnson at May 9, 2005 03:53 PM

It wasn't a test, it was a physics lab that they did in class that day, and had an assignment to complete based on the information given during the lab. How did this young man get a perfect score? Hmm. His classmates have claimed he doesn't actually do his own work, he gets the answers from friends. So do we give him an F for sleeping, or for cheating? Both would be punishment by way of lowered grade. No, instead we fire the respected 23 year veteran teacher - who by the way was following the law of the state of Georgia which states that a grade cannot be changed once it has been entered in the books... The purpose of the law being to protect teachers from being pressured into changing an athlete's grade. And Mr. Corporate Attorney above should also know that once a practice has been universally accepted over a long period of time, as Doc Neace's grading policy has been for 10+ years, it becomes accepted as a legal custom. The policy was clearly stated in the class syllabus for over a decade and both students and their parents sign and agree to it at the beginning of the school year, and the administration most certainly has had access and veto power over it.

Poor Dacula students - they lost the best teacher that school had so that a whining spoiled football player could get his way. I don't know how Nutt and the school board can live with themselves after the terrible disservice they have done to their students.

Posted by: Dacula Alumni at May 9, 2005 11:08 PM

I taught for 28 years...or, rather, I fought for 28 years! Everyone screams "standards" and blames the teachers for not demanding them, yet the moment they do so, they are overruled by GUTLESS PRINCIPALS and COWARDLY SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBERS who shrink when confronted by angry parents making excuses for the behavior of the children they themselves have spoiled!

When, oh when, will those with the power back their teachers? When will the blame be placed where it belongs?

Accountability begins at home!

Posted by: lois Heaton at May 16, 2005 09:57 AM

Why do people assume talking to a coach is going to stop a student's behavior. That depends on what type of coach you have. I have had coaches in my face yelling at me to raise an athletes grade so he can participate in the "big game." The coach could care less if the student has done any work. Parents often do the same thing. They are more concerned with after school sports than with their child's education. I have been a teacher for 6 years and I am amazed every year at the lengths some parents will go to in order keep a child eligible in a sport. In my school, if a parent comes in and complains about a grade, the administraters crumble and give in. It doesn't matter that the student has been sleeping in class, turned in work that has been copied, or nothing at all. I have also dealt with parents who do their child's homework so the child can concentrate on their sport. We are raising a generation of whinners who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. I wonder if the teacher would have been fired if this particular student was not an athlete. There is a double standard when dealing with students. Athletes must pass at all cost and other students just need to suffer. What really infuriates me is that I know the grades I give really don't mean that much. I have had the administration secretly change my grades in order to pass students who do nothing. I think the school board has created a incredibly stupid policy. Teachers now days have few tools to use to discipline students. And if the student was raised in a home without rules, they see no reason to follow them in school. What can I do about it? I can give detention (which many athletes skip in order to go to practice) or call home (often to parents who lie for their child and refuse to do anything to help). And to the person who claimed that they failed because they skipped too many classes (but supposedly had a pasing grade) I have one thing to say to you: I'm glad you were failed. If you had pulled a similar stunt at a job, you would be fired. Teenagers claim they want more freedom, well guess what, freedom comes with responsibibity. You need to acknowledge that fact that if you fail a class, you share some of the blame. I can't force you to do anything. Only you can decide that and if you choose to fail, then you better be ready to accept the consequences and not run crying to your parents like some whinny little first grader. Students need to grow up and start participating in their own education instead of whinning when they face consequences for inappropriate behavior of lack of effort.

Posted by: kjmylly at May 17, 2005 06:16 AM
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