Thursday, January 09, 2003

What racism?

Jendra Loeffelman thinks it's wrong for people of different races to date, marry and especially to have children.

Whether it was a firing offense for Loeffelman, 52, a teacher, to tell that opinion to an eighth-grade class at Crystal City Elementary School in Jefferson County was at the heart of a hearing that began Monday in the library at Crystal City High School.

Attorneys for both Loeffelman, of Bonne Terre, Mo., and the district agreed she made the statement on Oct. 23. She was suspended with pay the following day.

But the school district, in its bid to fire the tenured teacher, says she went much further, calling interracial children dirty and inferior. Several mixed-race children were present in her class.

"She basically said I shouldn't have been born," eighth-grader Billy Bingham told the Post-Dispatch after he testified in a closed portion of the hearing.

In more than a decade of teaching prior to the incident, administrators considered Loeffelman a "competent, effective teacher," said Maurice Watson, attorney for the district.

Chuck Ford, the teacher's attorney, told the Crystal City School Board his client was merely giving her opinion on a hot-button topic in response to a student's question.

In cross-examination of district witnesses, Ford emphasized that rather than being a racist, his client was concerned that mixed-race children may be ostracized.

The most offensive remarks attributed to her were after-the-fact exaggerations by students and parents in the district, he said.

To fire her under the statutes the district was citing, Watson would have to prove Loeffelman willfully violated policies against race harassment.

"How does answering a student's question for a personal opinion (related to) an assignment from another class constitute racial harassment?" he asked.

Loeffelman's termination hearing was scheduled to continue at 6 p.m. Tuesday.


A Jefferson County schoolteacher says she was unaware policy in her district prohibited teachers from making comments about race that might be hurtful to students in their classrooms.

She testified Tuesday that she made the statements in response to questions asked by a student who was working on an assignment for another class. The assignment required students to write an opinion paper on a controversial topic, such as abortion or interracial marriage.

Loeffelman said she declined to give her opinion on abortion because circumstances could dictate whether it was right or wrong.

Loeffelman said she told the student she was "totally against" interracial marriage and believed that interracial couples "shouldn't have children" because the children might be teased.

"I don't want to see children teased for any reason," Loeffelman said.

More here.