A high school English teacher in Pawtucket has been suspended from his job for mentioning birth control in class during a discussion of the Puritans, says students who are organizing a protest on his behalf.
William Ashton, who teaches at the Jacqueline Walsh Arts School for the Performing and Visual Arts (JMW) has been placed on leave, according to the “Bring Back Ashton” Facebook page maintained by students Hope Norton and Maggie Roberts. Superintendent Patti DiCenso’s office (401-729-6332 / firstname.lastname@example.org) confirmed a teacher from JMW has been placed on “administrative leave, pending review” but when I asked about the identity of the teacher and the reason for the review, I was told, “no comment.”
Students are planning a protest tomorrow at JMW after school, starting at 2:20pm.
The Facebook page offers possible clues as to why Ashton is being disciplined:
During one of his classes last Monday the topic of sex and birth control was brought up while talking about the Puritans and one student got upset by this, she has not been in school since. Today Ashton was not in school and students that were in that class were questioned individually, what happened in class, were you offended and did you tell your parents what happened.”
William Ashton is also not speaking to the press at this time.
In a Facebook conversation, Hope Norton told me that school officials held a meeting today with students, “but they separated Maggie and I from the rest of the group and tried to tell us we weren’t helping Ashton and that we were being bullies. They want us to keep quiet but we aren’t!”
Back in March, Ashton was escorted off school grounds for telling students that opting out of PARCC testing would not affect school funding. A student lead protest and media attention preceded Ashton’s reinstatement.