October 19, 2006
County School District
Dear Mr. Phillips:
I write this on behalf of Sandy Hays, a special education teacher at Special
Learning Academy, who is being unprofessionally
treated by the Academy’s Principal, Frankie Johns. It would appear that
Principal Johns has targeted Mrs. Hays because of her recent pregnancy and has endeavored to connect trumped up allegations
of student mismanagement to Mrs. Hays’ need to breastfeed her infant. In
a series of e-mails from Principal Johns to various staff members at the Academy, he admonishes these individuals in such
a threatening manner that an adverse working condition results. Please be advised
that The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth,
or related medical conditions. That Mrs. Hays recently gave birth and currently
needs to breastfeed her baby is covered under this Act.
Mrs. Hays is a nursing mother of a twelve-month old infant, and she must pump breast
milk during the school day. She pumps during her planning time and simply places
a sign on her door while pumping so that other staff members or students will not enter.
As I understand it, Mrs. Hays has been doing this since January, when she returned to work from maternity leave. Mrs. Hays states that Assistant Principal Gennero has never made an issue of it because,
as she further states, she pumps during her planning time and this pumping does not cause her to miss any assigned duties. Things changed for Mrs. Hays after she encountered Principal Johns on Friday, September 22, 2006. Upon exiting her room
and removing the sign, Mrs. Hays encountered Principal Johns who, according to Mrs. Hays, walked toward her and asked, “How
much longer is this going to go on?” Mrs. Hays states that Principal Johns
made hand gestures to his own breasts while asking her the previously-stated question.
Shocked by Principal Johns’ remarks and accompanying gestural illustration, Mrs. Hays responded, “Excuse
me?” Principal Johns then elaborated:
“How much longer is this going to go on? Six months? A year? How long?”
Mrs. Hays replied: “I will continue to breastfeed my baby until
she weans on her own.” Principal Johns then demanded an exact time period,
and Mrs. Hays told him several times that she could not give him one. She emphasized,
“I will nurse until my baby weans.” According to Mrs. Hays, Principal
Johns was so apparently dissatisfied with her response that he stormed off.
On October 9, 2006, Mrs. Hays received
an e-mail from Principal Johns that he also sent to Assistant Principal Gennero. In
this e-mail, Principal Johns chastises Mrs. Hays: “You need to make sure
that you are on duty before and after school. You will not be allowed to go whenever
you please or finish whatever you are doing. If you have things to do which prevent
you from being on duty at the designated time and place, you need to let ME [sic] know.
You will not drop your students off [sic] and disappear and leave it up to others to watch your students. If you have personal issues that relate to your baby which require you to have ‘alone time’,
[sic] you will complete your employment obligations first – not see to your students when it is convenient.” First, Mrs. Hays completes all her duties as specified and has never been cited for
failure to do so. Why then does Principal Johns write this? If he has specific information about a duty that Mrs. Hays has failed to complete, why has he failed to
inform her? I suggest that his failure is because of his lack of anything of
which to inform her. Second, Mrs. Hays states that teachers are not allowed to
leave campus without the permission of an administrator. She says that she has
left early twice to take her baby to the doctor, each time being excused by Assistant Principal Gennero. Is Principal Johns stating that Mrs. Hays has no right, even with Assistant Principal Gennero’s approval,
to leave early to take her newborn to the doctor? If he is, he is in violation
of The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and, by extension, so are you and the Muscogee
County School District. Third, as I understand it, Principal Johns is not even housed in the building with Mrs. Hays and her students. His workplace is in another section of town.
Assistant Principal Gennero essentially functions as the Academy’s supervisor.
Personnel and students see him daily; Principal Johns, only occasionally. Why
then Principal Johns’ insistence, underscored by the capitalized “ME” in his e-mail, that Mrs. Hays inform
him when she has “things to do” that cause her “from being on duty at the designated time and place”? Even if Mrs. Hays were missing duty assignments because of “things to do,”
which she is not and for which there exists no documentation other than Principal Johns’ unsubstantiated e-mail, it
makes no sense that she would seek approval from a man miles away. She would
seek it from the man in her immediate workplace, Assistant Principal Gennero. The
implication, of course, is that her pumping of breast milk for her baby is somehow causing her not to attend to specified
duties. Such is not the case. Mrs.
Hays pumps during her planning period when she has no assigned duties. Fourth,
Mrs. Hays does not just “disappear and leave it up to others to watch” her students. She states that she personally walks her students to the other special education teacher’s classroom
between every class period, but that she is not responsible for any students during lunch.
Principal Johns also faults Mrs. Hays for failing to follow his directives and threatens
her. He writes to “Mr. Gennero,” in the same e-mail sent to Mrs.
Hays: “I want to ensure that we are all still on the same page as far as
ALL [sic] special education students and the connections [sic]. ALL [sic] special
education students will go back to the special education teachers for all connections other than P.E. . . . I will not revisit this again. Any further incidents of sending special education students out without my permission will be treated as
insubordination.” His problem seems to be one of control. Assistant Principal Gennero, in the Academy during the school day, had instructed Mrs. Hays through his
supervisory role to send female students of a particular class to a particular room during a particular period. Mrs. Hays, as expected, complied with her supervisor’s request.
She responded to Principal Johns’ admonition with this information, and he replied: “The problem is – I specifically told you, Mr. Gennero, Ms. Sparrin, and Mrs. Elam
that NO [sic] special education students were to [sic] Mrs. Elam. I went on to say that it would not be acceptable (if special ed [sic] students were
sent to Mrs. Elam) to say, ‘I was doing what Mr. Gennero
or Mrs. Elam told me to do.’” I would think that even Mrs. Hays’ newborn would be able to see what the problem is here. Principal Johns wants to flex his administrative muscle and show that he has control of the Academy, even
though his office is across town and even though he only appears at the Academy maybe once a week for a few minutes. His male ego, however, apparently causes problems at the Academy. What he demands in the e-mails is that Mrs. Hays ignore the directives of her day-to-day supervisors in
lieu of his overriding directive that really only serves to let one and all know that he and he alone has control. His e-mail from September 13, 2006, emphasizes this
aspect of his apparent arrogance: “I would strongly advise all of you to
be very careful about disregarding what I ask of you. It is not a debate nor
[sic] discussion. I want everyone to know that if I give a directive, [sic] it
is nor [sic] will be acceptable to say that you were only doing what Mr. Gennero or Mrs. Elam
directed. I am the principal – period.
Dr. Phillips is my supervisor. If he instructs you to do something different
than I say, that will be the only excuse for you not complying with my directives. I
do not expect to have to repeat this.”
Perhaps you should give Principal Johns a
directive, one that he clearly understands, namely, treat those over whom he has supervision ethically, legally, and professionally. The confusion over what directive to follow apparently ensued from Principal Johns
arbitrarily making a change in how students attend connections classes and then discussing the change only with supervisors,
not with those who would actually have to see to student attendance of the classes.
Mrs. Hays writes Principal Johns: “Ms. Sparrin nor I knew about
the disscusssion you had with Ms. Elam. We were simply carrying out the plan that was discussed that morning-if it changed upon your visit, we
weren’t informed.” How can Mrs. Hays be held accountable to implementation
of a policy of which she had no information? Through telepathy? I think not. Besides, she had other concerns about the scheduling
of the special education students. She writes:
“The IEP states that the students will be served in a regular education setting with a regular education teacher
for Connections classes-As I understand it, if we fail to follow the IEP, we are violating the LRE.” Does Principal Johns understand these acronyms, much less the import of following federally-mandated strictures
concerning special education students? I would suggest that he does not and that
he seems single-minded in his pursuit of having his apparently whimsical dictates followed blindly by all. Mrs. Hays also writes: “Our numbers are illeagal during
the reading block, thus Ms. Sparrin and I MUST have the students together for the entire reading block......in order to remain
in compliance. We have a total of 17 (you can only have 11 with a para) so the
2nd teacher must be present.” Again, this seems logically presented;
however, Principal Johns misses the logic. He writes: “I am struggling with understanding how this is rational or in the best interest of our special education
students, regular education students, the regular education teacher, or the administrators who will have to deal with constant
write ups from putting all of these BD students in one room. Not only that, but
put them in one room and allow our entire certified special education staff to provide no support. [sic] The only person I see benefiting from this is the special
education teachers. I have to make decisions based on what is in the best interest
of EVERYONE [sic] involved.” If such were the case, Principal Johns would
allow Assistant Principal Gennero, who is in the Academy daily, to make appropriate day-to-day decisions that take into account
the exigencies of the school day. It would appear that Principal Johns has concern
only for his word being law, not for law to be followed.
Principal Johns finds other fault with Mrs. Hays.
He writes: “Also, you are to sign in when you arrive. Time sheets are very important [sic] and the school district expects for them to accurately [sic] reflect
when you arrive in the morning.” This implies that Mrs. Hays regularly
fails to sign in when she arrives at the Academy, which she does not. According
to Mrs. Hays, she has only signed in late one time this school year, and, in my mind, that is certainly an excellent record
for a breastfeeding mother! Why then does Principal Johns write this? I suggest he might be trying to pile on as many negatives as possible so as to make his brute, unprofessional
harangue of Mrs. Hays on September 22, 2006, seem warranted, which it
was not. My suggestion gains support when Principal Johns’ next criticism
of Mrs. Hays’ professionalism is discussed. He writes: “Finally, I need you to reduce the noise levels in your room.
If [sic] you need to close your door, call the parents, or seek other remedies, [sic] the noise is too loud. It disturbs your fellow teachers [sic] and it can be heard at times all the way in the office.” Now, this canard disturbs me. Mrs. Hays
had already addressed with Principal Johns the cause of the noise emanating from her room – sadly, as I have previously
shown, to no avail.
Mr. Phillips, I have no doubt that you, as Superintendent of a large school system in
Georgia, want to follow the law and have your administrative
staff do so, too. Why allow Principal Johns to flaunt The Pregnancy Discrimination
Act of 1978 so blatantly and, while doing so, engage in the most puerile type of sexual harassment, that of pretending to
be fondling a woman’s breasts while talking to a breastfeeding mother who happens to be a teacher at the Academy where
he holds the title of Principal? It boggles my mind that a principal would have
difficulty understanding the necessities of motherhood, much less its worthwhile nature to the job which he holds. Without the continual propagation of our species, there would be no need for Principal Johns’ employment. There would be no need for your employment either or for that of teachers and the
other support personnel necessary for the running of a school. In order to have
school employment, the school must have students. In order to have students,
women must give birth. Just because some of those women just happen to be employed
by school systems does not mean that their maternal rights are negated. Please
instruct Principal Johns to cease and desist from his unlawful, unprofessional, unethical treatment of Mrs. Hays. The stress he has unnecessarily introduced into her life cannot possibly be of benefit to her child. Although I am unable to cite the source, I distinctly remember reading about how stress
causes certain changes in a woman’s breast milk that spurs production of some sort of chemical (or possibly an enzyme
or a statin, I cannot recall just what it is) that enters the infant’s system and sometimes sickens the newborn. I have encouraged Mrs. Hays to take heed of this and note any abnormal aspects in
her daughter that might result from the extreme stress that has ensued in her life from Principal Johns’ boorish, chauvinistic
actions toward her.
I hope I do not have to revisit this situation with you.
J. Anderson Ramay, Jr., Esq.
Copy: Ms. Sandy Hays
Dr. John Trotter, Chairman, MACE