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District allegation against Moffett: ‘Endangering safety and welfare of children’

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The District has informed Audenried High teacher Hope Moffett that an investigatory conference has been scheduled to discuss “the role [she is] alleged to have played in endangering the safety and welfare of children,” as well as her disclosure of an official document in defiance of a gag order.

Moffett, 25, has played a visible part in public protests of the District’s plans to turn over Audenried to Universal Companies for conversion into a charter as part of the Renaissance Schools initiative. Moffett spent Friday and today in a basement room in the High School Academic Division in Strawberry Mansion – an assignment that some refer to as “teacher jail.”

“I was surprised,” said Moffett of the allegations against her.

“I don’t see anything that I’ve done that could be construed in any way as endangering the safety and welfare of children.”

“As a standard practice, the District does not comment on personnel matters,” said District spokesperson Elizabeth Childs.

Childs did offer that examples of “endangering the safety and welfare of children” might include “leaving a class unsupervised, encouraging truancy, physical harm to a student or staff member, assisting students to travel off school property without consent from guardians, and other actions that may put a student at risk of harm.”

An earlier District statement insinuated that Moffett’s class was not “safe” and that she had been using class time in inappropriate ways.

Reached for comment, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, echoed his previous comments on the matter.

“There is clearly a sense that there are attempts to silence people’s feelings about this District and about what’s happening in their schools. That won’t be tolerated,” he said.

Last Thursday, Moffett, who is a third-year English teacher at Audenried, and an unidentified second staff member from the school received letters informing them that they were being temporarily reassigned out of Audenried.

The letter directing Moffett to report to an administrative office contained no information about why she was being removed from the classroom and sent to an administrative facility. It did, however, contain a threat of further disciplinary action for divulging the contents of the letter.

Jordan called that statement “absolutely silly at best, and, at worst, an attempt to silence her.”

“I think the District is dead wrong in the way in which they’re handling this,” he said, adding that he is personally monitoring Moffett’s case.

During an extensive weekend interview with the Notebook, Moffett acknowledged giving her input and opinions to students and playing a role in three major public activities in opposition to District proposals for Audenried, but said her class periods have been “all about teaching.”

She denied organizing a student walkout but acknowledged providing transportation tokens to a student leader to distribute to others. That acknowledgment was highlighted in a document provided by the District to Moffett on Wednesday, as was her statement in a Notebook article that “I have been involved in how to make it an effective protest [because] if my students are going to do something, they’re going to do it to win.”

The investigatory conference, currently scheduled for Thursday*, will include Moffett, a PFT representative, and Linda Cliatt-Wayman, the District’s assistant superintendent for high schools. The conference and subsequent deliberations may result in any number of outcomes, ranging from no action to a recommendation of termination.

“We are going to be with Moffett throughout this process,” said Jordan.

He cautioned that the PFT does not yet have the details behind the District’s allegations and that it would be premature to speculate on the conference notice that Moffett received.

If the charges are unfounded, warned Jordan, "there will be a very strong reaction from the PFT."

UPDATE: The investigatory conference has been postponed to Wednesday, March 2.