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Teacher Suspended for Showing Garden Tools in School

Christina Sarich
May 2nd, 2013
Updated 05/08/2014 at 11:12 am
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gardentools 263x164 Teacher Suspended for Showing Garden Tools in SchoolIn a Chicago suburb, school officials recently suspended a 17-year veteran teacher for showing students wrenches, pliers, and a few Phillip’s head screwdrivers in a recent discussion about ‘tool use’ in his classroom.

Doug Bartlett, the teacher, has sued the school, and attorneys at Rutherford Institute have a pending civil rights case against the school district. Most of us hope he wins that case, but with recent Monsanto victories in federal courts, how will this poor teacher fair? This case is not unlike the school district that got sued in Encinita for having yoga classes, only in reverse. It seems the programs that help society get poo-pooed and the benevolent acts of wise teachers in Chicago are labeled violent.

It’s clear that Mr. Bartlett did nothing wrong. The tools were even kept locked up when not in use (just in case some thug wanted to wield a garden spade against the principal). He was suspended without pay, and charged with possession and carrying of a ‘weapon’. He was embarrassed and humiliated. It’s only four days, but it’s the principle of the matter. The gross overreaction by the school district is just indicative of the indelible mark corporatism has made on the masses.

Watch out kids, learning anything of use that will help you become self-sufficient, including the ways and means to grow your own organic, non-GMO food are hazardous. Imagine what that school district would do to LA’s guerilla gardener who plants edible crops in all the unused green space in Los Angeles, California? Surely, arming children with proactive and non-violent ways to bring sustainability to the world is pure criminality!

“This school district’s gross overreaction to a simple teaching demonstration on basic tools such as wrenches and pliers underscores exactly what is wrong with our nation’s schools,” said Rutherford Institute Pres. John Whitehead.

For Chicagoans and school-aged students, here are some more garden tools you can use to grow stuff with:

  • Dutch Hoe
  • Spade
  • Potting Soil
  • Old dead leaves for making compost
  • A watering can
  • Garden gloves (just be careful not to use the one OJ Simpson used back in 1994.
  • Scissors for clipping leaves and stems
  • Organic, Heirloom seeds – they sell tons of these on ebay for super cheap, or you can do a seed swap at local horticultural and gardening society and get some for free.
  • Weeders
  • A soil knife (it looks like a really fat butter knife) with one serrated edge and markings like a ruler to measure soil depth
  • Pruning shears
  • Old milk jugs to be used as watering devices
  • A loop hoe
  • Small saws, for cutting tree limbs and thick stalks of larger plants

Additional Sources:

CNS News


From around the web:

  • Steve

    I wonder about the actual verbiage of the school's zero tolerance policy regarding weapons. Does it define a weapon, or leave up it for ambiguous interpretation? After all, a pillow could be a weapon for suffocation. Or for that matter, the desks and chairs in the classrooms could be used to bludgeon someone, or heck, even the principal could inflict heavy damage if used as a blunt projectile. I think "weapon" needs to be clearly defined.

  • StandAlone

    I am so sick of the fear mongers that we have leading our government (federal, state, county and city or town), schools, and our lives. Those who rebel against the constant change in rules and regulations and the “political correctness” crap are now the enemy and seen as possible terrorists. This country’s citizens used to be much wiser and thought more independently…which made this country the best in the world. Now we are at the bottom rung of the ladder and we have lost the respect of other countries. No country is afraid to attack us now since we have let down our values and morals to become “safer”. If our people do not wake up and smell the “roses”, I fear that we are being led down the path of destruction.

    For those who pick apart spelling, typos and grammer, I apologize for mine. Please pay more attention to what is meant and not use my words to teach a class. Thank you!

  • Sallie Dodd Butters

    The same thing happened just days ago in Jersey to a teacher who DID bring in gardening tools and was suspended for bringing terrorist weapons to his class…maybe that's why farming was mentioned…same tools only more…

  • xtv310

    Such stupidity! If they want to fire people for bringing supposed weapons to the work place, then fire everyone who has hands to choke and suffocate and abuse with, teeth to bite with, heads to butt with, feet to kick with. Any of these moving body parts can be use to hurt and even kill. Why not go further and arrest everyone who has the flu and appears in public without a mask on b/c they can spread the disease to the weaker immuned elders and young children which can lead to their deaths. Hippocrites!!

  • bluclarinet

    Since when are " wrenches, pliers, and a few Phillip’s head screwdrivers" garden tools?

    • madamx

      that just shows how ignorant and removed from real life, many people are nowadays. they couldn't fix anything on their own as they were never taught how to do simple stuff around the house.

  • Mary

    Have Mercy !!!!! I'm glad my grandchildren are home schooled. I was a teacher many years ago when
    most teachers had common sense and could demonstrate and teach about gardening tools along with
    reading, writing, and arithmetic.. We did get a nutty principal at times, and also psychologists (who were
    in the profession because of their own problems.

  • yankee phil

    Where there is no vision,the people perish. When you allow what few visionaries are left in america to be marginalised or driven away from their normal position in society,you will be left with ordinary,crowd following leadership. Take a guess where america is heading,you let the mafia's of america run your politic,think you got sold out?

  • Guest

    Heaven forbid they look in the Home Ec. teacher's classroom.
    ~ signed Retired Home Ec. Teacher

  • Mackytack

    When my husband and I build our raised bed garden, my husband uses a box cutter, knife, and various other tools as well. It is hard to cut wood, and assemble the pieces without tools. This teacher was TEACHING!!! Safely and effectively…he kept the tools locked away when not in use.
    Whoever the parent/person was who complained about this, should have been dealt with, by using proper judgement, rather than succumbing to an overreaction. That's why this world is out of control!!!

    • Ronald Smith

      You clearly lack comprehension of what “garden-variety tools” are. There is quite literally NO difference between “garden tools” and “garden-variety tools” other than a word. How do I know this? I’ve both sold and used them. When you have a clue and want to get rid of the leftist chip that’s clearly on your shoulder, then come back and comment, because otherwise we’re just going to ignore such ridiculous banter.

      • lexi

        No, actually I don't lack comprehension of what this means. I have also sold and used all kinds of tools but so what. There is actually a big difference between the two terms. Look it up in the dictionary if you must. Garden variety is an expression meaning commonplace, normal, average, run of the mill. Has NOTHING to do with garden tools. Just because you sold them doesn't mean that the definition you have ascribed to them is so. As far as having a clue or having a leftist chip, I simply want and expect non biased reporting. And as far as my banter being ridiculous, I wasn't the only one who noticed the the article was flawed. So there you go. Feel free to ignore my banter whenever you want.

    • John

      "Garden variety" idiots wrote and approved this article.

  • lexi

    Oh, and this article title is misleading……..makes your argument as silly and sensationalistic as the bs on the news.

    Most people do NOT use box cutters and pocket knifes in their gardening. How about pliers? Nope. Please stop writing bias crap-we get enough of it on mainstream news.

    • madamx

      many people use box cutters for things about the house , namely, to cut stuff like a craft knife does. And to open boxes of stuff from the mail or whatever. also pocket knives are very handy and versatile, especially if they have lots of tools on them. but people who never do anything for themselves and can't even do simple repairs, wouldn't know anything about it.

  • lexi

    While I think that this is absurd, if you read the actual complaint, he had a box cutter and a pocket knife.

    Now in days past these would not be considered weapons, but since 911 authorities have gone mad in their search for terrorists and in wanting to "protect" society from itself. This results in some people overeating and being afraid all the time. The poor principal of the school got a complaint and due to the "rules" and rules of engagement had to investigate. She was probably put in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Even if she thought it ridiculous (not saying she did, how could we know?) she was forced due to some whack parent or whatever to deal with this crap.

    So if we want to blame someone, lets blame whoever is writing these school rules and creating all kinds of fear out there…..the government? Whoever runs things that wants us all to be even more sheep than we already are……makes me sick…..

    • JOhn

      "This results in some people overeating…" While probably a true statement, is this what you meant? :-) (I'm *pretty sure* you meant "overreacting".)

      Very valid points, though! The dumbing down process / sheeple producing machine is scaring the crap out of me. Where will we be in five years?

  • Dave

    Edit: how will this poor teacher *fare*?

  • Green Eyed Jinn

    Wow, they better get all those ice-pick-shaped PENCILS & PENS out of the schools, too!! My God! Think of the potential carnage if these vicious objects are used inappropriately?!?!

    I would like to feel some pity for the people of Chicago, but I don't. They have lived with and embraced this system for generations, voted in politicians who perpetuate it, and have gleefully taken all the "freebies" that have been doled out to keep them voting for a "Machine" that appoints appartchiks and continues to grind its constituency blissfully into the ground.

    If you live in Chicago…you shoule LEAVE. If you are unwilling to go, you get what you deserve.

  • Jake Bruijnsma

    Law makers are Outlaws!

    So, how about technical school education?
    Close those technical schools as every one tool can be used properly or in a violent way, THAT is why we have education!
    I thought those kids on how to use dangerous tools.
    They all became good Cabinetmakers and responsible citizens!

    • madamx

      you TAUGHT them you didn't think them.

  • Dave T

    "Plaintiff, a school teacher, showed to his students a pocket knife, as part of a curriculum-mandated 'tool discussion,'" the lawsuit states. "Other garden-variety tools plaintiff used in the discussion were a box cutter, various wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers. As a result of showing a pocket knife, plaintiff was charged with bringing a weapon to school, and received a four-day suspension without pay."

    Read more:

  • Angie

    So I guess the maintenance staff should be fired next , since they use screwdrivers, plyers and wrenches all the time. You need those tools to build raised beds which grow more food how ridiculous can you be Chicago.

  • Laura.

    The incident involved “garden variety” tools, not gardening tools. Please correct your misleading article and picture.

  • Tom Linscott

    Obviously today, all school administrators are morons with no common sense.

    • lexi

      Really? Are all air traffic controllers, carpenters and bus drivers morons as well, because they have rules that they have to comply with? What about police and firefighters?

      Common sense is in short supply today for everyone, but just because someone is a school administrator doesn't make them a moron, any more than anyone else.

      If you read the complaint, it says "an area observer" reported this. Who would that be? A parent? A person hired by some other organization to mintor teacher behaviors and compliance?

      I agree with the teacher, but people without critical thinking skills tend to jump on the bandwagon of their "side" and then stir up a ruckus without actually getting to the bottom of what actually happened. It's just like the herd at policial rallies-good greif, does not one actually want the truth? Apparently not.

    • Stacy

      I work in a school with strong leadership all the way around. I think that some leadership falls victim to zero tolerance policies that are the making of school boards and other interested parties. That said, I work in a school with a greenhouse and gardens which are tended by student and parent volunteers. We grow lots of vegetables that are then prepared for our students as part of our school lunch program. So, I would say that indicating that "all" school administrators are morons, etc.., is a fairly short-sighted comment.

  • Terry

    you can't say Spade!!!!!! That's racist…….

  • R.

    Forgive me, but what do the ridiculous, heavy handed actions taken against Doug Bartlett have to do with gardening, corporate greed, GMO products, or self sufficiency. This is simply a case of bureaucratic a** covering and of an overzealous interpretation of the spirit of established safety and security protocols. The astounding, “wannabe” sensationalist leaps of logic taken by Christina Sarich do not expose a massive corporate conspiracy but merely lay bare her lack of credibility and lopsided, paranoid world view.

  • Nancy Ingalls

    "I'm frightened for your children." ~ Moody Blues

  • Rose G`

    While I hate Monsanto too and don't want GMOs either, what did any of that have to do with this case? This was about school administrators getting carried away and not using common sense, in their classification of gardening tools as weapons. Kind of similar to the policy where if they hug a child who needs comfort, they could be charged with inappropriate touching.

    • guest

      It wasn't even garden tools. It was pliers,wrenches, and screwdrivers. Don't they have these things in shop class?

    • plusafdotcom

      Well, first, GMO foods, themselves, have not been proven dangerous. Eating GMO SEEDS may be dangerous, but that's not what they were GM'd for… they're for planting, not eating.

      But, given the tenor of the "article," I could guess that if she were reporting on a local jaywalking case, she'd figure out a way to slam Monsanto or GMO foods, somehow… no hidden agenda here, eh?

  • Jennifer Allen

    This is just too much!

  • JTCan

    What a sad dysfunctional world we live in.

  • Sadhaka

    Encinitas, not Encinita :)

  • mariagstudios

    Wow! Suddenly I'm a little scared. I'm starting a garden at my school this year! See ya in the unemployment line!

    • Guest

      Please keep your garden plans. Students need this.

  • Cindy Mugnaini

    I didn't see a thing about garden tools. It looked like "hardware" tools to me.

  • Anna

    Here we go again! While I applaud the message, please! "Watch out kids, learning anything of use that will help you become self-sufficient, including the ways and means to grow your own organic, non-GMO food are hazardous."

    Not "… are hazardous." … is hazardous." Gotta teach these kids proper usage of the English langage, people!

    • kai

      Actually "are" is correct here because the subject of the sentence is "ways and means" thus plural. :P

      • Mike

        Actually, 'learning' is the subject. It is a gerund (somewhat similar to a participle, but acts as a noun, rather than as a modifier. "ways and means" is the object of the gerund "including", which itself is an appositive of "anything". The simple sentence is: Learning is hazardous.

      • John

        That's not correct, Kai.

    • Pam

      btw Anna: "English langage" = language

      • John

        Pam – A simple typo is way different than linguistic incompetence.

  • Mlaylor

    The teacher wasn't persecuted for promoting growing your own food, he was a victim of the " no tolerance" policy re: weapons.

    • Dianne

      Garden tools are weapons..? HOw ridiculous…. What about pencils (could be used to stab someone) or even paper (one could get a paper cut ya know). Where has common sense gone??

      • plusafdotcom

        This is just another example of the "protect me from EVERY DANGEROUS THING in the world" mentality that has been growing like a cancer in the US for decades.

        Virtually anything and everything IS dangerous and can be used as a weapon. But this is just creeping mindlessness.

        Outlaw pencils and pens in schools… they can be weapons! And so can a laptop or a pad computer! NOTHING is 100% safe. Especially the morons who pass such laws…. :(

    • madamx

      garden tools are not weapons!

    • madamx

      home repair tools are not weapons!

  • Elizabeth

    Not to say Chicago wouldn't ever do anything that silly– Chicago does crazy stuff all the time–but Chicago suburbs are NOT Chicago. Those school districts might as well be on the moon.

  • Anna

    How will this poor teacher "fare", not "fair". Help me!

    • Dave

      Yes! Thank you!

    • plusafdotcom

      and in what "school" did Christina Sarich "learn" grammar and spelling? LOL…

    • Sylvia

      Welcome to Idiocracy, USA, 2013. I swear, if correct grammar and spelling were a requirement for a job, almost no one under 35 would get hired. Sad really.