BLOOMINGTON — The dismissal of science teacher Marc Tiritilli continues to prompt objections from students.
Two Bloomington High School students spoke on behalf of about two dozen students attending Wednesday night's Bloomington District 87 school board meeting, which took place at Stevenson Elementary School.
They asked the board to reconsider Tiritilli's dismissal, which the board approved at its March 14 meeting or at least change it from “with cause” to “without cause.”
Junior Lucas Dahmm described Tiritilli as a “phenomenal educator” who is "the best science teacher I've had.”
Speaking during the public comment session near the end of the meeting, Dahmm said, “I don't feel like I've been represented honestly by my school board.”
Savannah Sleevar, a freshman, said students had planned a walkout for April 4 to protest Tiritilli's dismissal but it was called off because of threats of punishment for truancy.
She also pointed to a March 14 demonstration related to the school shootings in Florida, a protest she said was “hijacked” by the administration and turned from a walkout organized by students to a “walk-in” led by “administrators that stifle dissent.”
She told the board that the firing of Tiritilli over the objections of students and others and the handling of the March 14 protest and the planned April 4 demonstration “create an environment that renders students powerless.”
Superintendent Barry Reilly said after the meeting that there are consequences for students who skip class, although the discipline would vary depending on such things as whether the students has been disciplined previously.
However, Reilly said he would talk to BHS Principal Tim Moore about the students' feelings that they are not being listened to.
“We want to make sure students do feel like they can go to the building leader and be heard,” said Reilly.
As for the students' desire that Tiritilli's dismissal be reversed, Reilly noted that among the actions taken by the board Wednesday was the hiring of a new physics teacher, which means Tiritilli's position has already been filled.
He said, “I can understand the frustration of someone who doesn't have all the information,” but the district does not publicly disclose the reasons for dismissal in such cases, “even at the expense of being viewed as not being forthcoming.”
The March 14 demonstration related to the school shootings also generated public comment from local blogger Diane Benjamin of Ellsworth.
Benjamin said although the demonstration was claimed to be about “safe schools” and remembering students, it was really about advocating gun control. She said a document that was handed out was copied on BHS equipment.
Benjamin said, “You don't have the right to indoctrinate students.”
Reilly said after the meeting that indoctrination “wasn't the intent.” But he also said the copies should not have been made on school equipment and he is talking to administrators.
“It's one of those lessons that you learn,” Reilly said. “In the future, that will not occur.”