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Three Parents Arrested In Protest Over Transferred Teacher

February 16, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ About 15 parents and community activists seized an elementary school classroom to protest the transfer of a teacher, and three parents were arrested in a demonstration one protester called a ″great civics lesson.″

Parents blocked the door to a room at Brentano Elementary School on Monday while the third-grade teacher and about 30 students were inside. They refused to let the new teacher enter to show ″that sometimes you have to stand up against those kind of policies that hurt people,″ said the Rev. Bruce Rickley, one of the protesters.

After a six-hour impasse, the three parents were arrested and charged with criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, before they were released on their own recognizance, said police officer John Lyons. The other parents dispersed.

″They could go to jail up to a year for it. It is one thing to protest - it is another thing to deter the operation of a school,″ Lyons said.

The transferred teacher, Louise DeGroot, had taught the children since the beginning of the school year but was not yet certified, she said. School officials considered her a substitute teacher.

When a teacher at another school received certification, the two were directed to switch classrooms as of Monday. But Ms. DeGroot showed up Monday in her old classroom to protest.

Ms. DeGroot, 40, said she hopes the protest will persuade the school board to put her back in her classroom, but she realizes it may jeopardize her future as a teacher in Chicago’s schools.

Ms. DeGroot was told she was being transferred Thursday after school was over, and since Friday was a school holiday, she said had no chance to say goodbye to her pupils.

″Children become very attached with a teacher, so it is very traumatic for them. It’s very traumatic for me too,″ Ms. DeGroot said in a telephone interview Monday night.

The protesters met Monday night and decided to start picketing in front of the school this morning, Ms. DeGroot said.

A teacher ″is not something to be ripped away from them without a chance to say goodbye,″ said Rickley, whose three children attend another school.

Most of the students who were in the room when it was seized about 9 a.m. Monday were removed and assigned to other classrooms after police arrived an hour later, said Aracelis Figueroa, a district superintendent for the city Board of Education. Four students whose parents were involved in the protest remained in the room throughout the daylong demonstration, she said.

″We figured this kind of thing was a great civics lesson,″ Rickley said.

Removing their teacher was something the children ″understood as very unfair,″ said Rickley, who knows Ms. DeGroot from North River Community Church, the Baptist church where he preaches.

Ms. Figueroa said Ms. DeGroot ″wants to be placed back at Brentano, but there is no such thing as assigning anyone permanently to a school as a substitute.″

″A substitute is just a substitute,″ Ms. Figueroa said.

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