Op-ed: English teacher unfairly suspended

Jackson Parks

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A petition calling for transparency from the WGSD administration was created by senior Corvin Haake.

English teacher Melissa Rainey has been suspended indefinitely for her involvement in a senior flash mob to celebrate Spirit Week and its class theme of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Rainey assisted in the flash mob by playing the song “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles, which is played during the iconic parade scene of the movie, outside her classroom window. Seniors gathered in the courtyard and later moved to the hallways to dance to the song roughly 10 minutes before seventh hour ended on Nov. 19.

Rainey is a favorite teacher and is seen as a safe space for many students in the building, including myself. Her comfortable and dim but candle-lit room matches her teaching style and approach to literature perfectly. She is a core proponent of not just the WGHS teaching staff but also the community, and she represents the values of WGHS well — or at least what WGHS should value.

For an English teacher to be suspended indefinitely without an explanation made to her sophomore and senior classes this late in the semester, it shakes up the day for many students (specifically seniors who take her college-level class) — especially during a time of random, differentiating schedules and with finals nearing.

Administrators, such as Dr. Shiree Yeggins, have addressed some of Rainey’s classes and offered to talk to students outside of class and in their office. Yeggins also expressed sympathy for Rainey’s students, understanding that we are confused and frustrated. However, no formal explanation or statement has been given on Rainey’s suspension.

“Ms. Rainey is currently supplying the class with assignments, so the students are on track and exactly where they need to be in regards to class material,” Yeggins explained.

Administrators are unable to give an official statement or explanation on the details of Rainey’s suspension, as they cannot comment on confidential, personnel matters.

The absence of a teacher never goes unnoticed by students, but an absence based on such juvenile reasoning has struck a nerve for students, teachers and community members.

A petition was started by senior Corvin Haake, a student of Rainey’s, calling for more transparency from the school administration about Rainey’s suspension. The petition has collected over 800 signatures online, with its new goal shooting for 1,000 signatures.

Haake shared his reasons for starting the petition.

“I started the petition because I didn’t know what was going on with Ms. Rainey, and the lack of transparency is crazy since she is our teacher,” Haake explained.

Even teachers came to Rainey’s defense.

SSD teacher Stacia Giulvezan expressed her thoughts on Rainey’s involvement in the flash mob and on her suspension.

“I think she is being punished as if she did something truly egregious, unlike participating in a fun senior spirit day impromptu dance party in the courtyard. If we are worried about supervision, don’t; our seniors already have open campus available to them, and aren’t we supposed to be preparing them for college and career readiness where they are self-sufficient? Further, what about the time where all of her students are missing her direct instruction?” Giulvezan questioned.

About Rainey’s character, Giulvezan shared, “She’s very dedicated to her profession. She thinks constantly about her students. She cares deeply for them.”

Senior students of Rainey also shared their thoughts on Rainey’s suspension.

Senior Lillie Torbit said, “I think Rainey’s suspension is unjust. From what I’ve heard and what I believe happened, it’s not fair. Mrs. Rainey is a well-loved teacher who many students feel understands them. For the school to take away that teacher, I hope they get criticism from the past and current students and parents. I mean, I’ve only been in Rainey’s class for this semester, but she’s honestly one of the best teachers this school has to offer, and I feel like a lot of people would agree with me.”

Torbit expanded on Rainey as a teacher, saying, “She’s also genuinely a great teacher. You can tell she cares about the students and cares about the material that she teaches. It’s absolutely ridiculous that the teacher I feel like cares for me more than anyone in this building can be suspended.”

Senior Izzy Gunning expressed her frustration in Rainey’s suspension and in the administration as a whole.

“I am overwhelmingly disappointed. Rainey genuinely cares about not just her students, but the WGHS students as a whole. The administration chooses to suspend one of the most supportive staff, a safe person for many students and an amazing teacher. They are choosing to take away an educator who brings far more to the table than almost all others,” Gunning explained.

Students are frustrated by the lack of transparency from the administration. Senior Annie Kennerly expressed her thoughts on the situation.

“I love Ms. Rainey and so does every other student who has her as a teacher. Students feel safe in her room; that can’t be said for the rest of the high school. Her decisions are her decisions, and whether they please the administration or not, Ms. Rainey has always been transparent about her actions and why. However, the school administration has not. If that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what does. We miss Rainey,” Kennerly said.

Senior Olivia Nennert expressed her disappointment on the secrecy of Rainey’s suspension and how Rainey’s classroom is a safe space for her as well.

“Ms. Rainey’s classroom is truly a safe place for me, and I feel that she really fosters important discussion in her class. It’s really upsetting that she has been suspended, especially when administration is so secretive about it. We just want to know why we don’t have our teacher anymore,” Nennert said.

Junior Sadie Saltsman-Buck also criticized the administration for its decision.

“I don’t understand how our administration will let so much slide, like countless serious teacher issues being brushed over, but a teacher plays a song, and it’s game over. It’s not fair. I’ve had a fair share of amazing teachers, and I, even without meeting Ms. Rainey, could tell how much effort she put into her job. She created a space for kids to be safe and value their mental health,” Saltsman-Buck said.

“She made a mistake, however, teachers have made much worse mistakes and nothing is done about it, at least not in this length. We at least deserve an explanation on how something as trivial like playing a song led to a suspension, when I’ve seen worse actions occur with no solution,” Saltsman-Buck said.

Isabella Ferrell, senior and Rainey’s niece, was one of the students who had the idea for a “Ferris Bueller” flash mob, explaining Rainey’s involvement in the situation. Ferrell, like other students, is frustrated with the administration’s overreaction to the situation.

“The situation that has led to Ms. Rainey’s suspension is nowhere near the severity our administration is leading it on to be,” Ferrell said.

“When I found out about the suspension, I sent a text to my English class taught by Ms. Rainey: ‘I encourage anyone who is upset by this to go and talk to our administration. Tell your parents and get them to contact the administration. Don’t do anything rash, but let them have it. I have a feeling this has nothing to do with them actually being upset over what happened on Friday and everything to do with an underlying agenda they have,’” Ferrell said.

I remember on the first day of my sophomore year, in Rainey’s English class, she encouraged us to call her by her first name, Melissa. This clearly never stuck, though this just shows the type of teacher that Rainey is. Not only is the education and mental health of her students important to Rainey, but also maintaining positive relationships is a value of hers.

As a student of Rainey, both my sophomore and senior years, it’s just so frustrating to see her get suspended over something just so juvenile. Similar to just about everyone else, I don’t just think, but know that Rainey is a great teacher. It’s irritating to have little to no explanation or support from the administration, especially with final exams nearing.

I feel like at its core this is more than just everyone’s favorite English teacher getting suspended for the dumbest of reasons; it’s about the administration’s lack of respect and transparency for the staff and student body. Students and staff deserve to have some type of explanation on why a teacher is suspended, when literally everyone is talking about it. The administration cannot just keep picking and choosing what gets brushed aside and what they’re going to have a problem with. It’s just not right.

To support Rainey, the petition is available at change.org.

Jackson Parks – Editor-in-Chief

This will be Jackson Parks’ second year on ECHO staff, but he made several contributions while taking journalism class his sophomore year. He served as Junior Editor his first year on staff.

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