The Case of a Teacher Suspended for Showing Integrity

I am vehemently opposed to politically correct rules instituted in softening the reality of a non-performing child. If a child doesn’t deserve any more than an “F” grade it is ludicrous and disingenuous to give that child any higher grade. Preventing teachers from giving a mark they feel is reflective of their students’ achievement is outrageous.

Lynden Dorval is not the person you should be firing. It is the very people who concocted a stupid rule that prohibits giving students a zero grading, who should face the chop. David Staples is right to call Dorval a hero:

Lynden Dorval, 61, has been a teacher for 35 years. He’d be in in the class room again today, except he’s suspended.


Because Dorval can’t in good conscience go along with a misguided new scheme cooked up by educational theorists and school administrators.

Under this scheme, it’s no longer possible for high school teachers at Ross Sheppard and numerous other Edmonton  schools to give a student a mark of zero on a test or an assignment, even if the student refuses to hand in the assignment or write the test. Instead, students are given a mark based on the work they do complete.

This policy has been in place at Edmonton junior high schools for decades, Dorval says, but it is now making its way into local high schools.

Ross Sheppard’s principal brought it in last year. Dorval refused to go along with it then and was reprimanded. He again refused this year. He was reprimanded some more.

Finally, on May 18, after a meeting with Edmonton Public School Board superintendent Edgar Schmidt, Dorval was suspended.

In his letter to Dorval, Schmidt said it was mandatory for Dorval to follow the instructions of his principal. “You chose to disregard the requirements and thus repeatedly behaved unprofessionally and blatantly undermined the authority and responsibility of the Principal.

“You must turn in your school keys … You are not allowed entry into Ross Sheppard School or its grounds without your Principal’s permission. If you defy this directive, you will be considered a trespasser and charged …”

If Dorval doesn’t buckle under and go along with the new way of marking students who don’t do their work, he says he will lose his job.

I met with Dorval on Thursday and immediately thanked him.  It’s not often any of us see real heroes, people who put their reputations and jobs on the line to uphold a righteous principle. Dorval fits that category.  By refusing to accept lower standards in our schools, even if it cost him his job, he’s standing up for all parents and students.

I should say that Dorval is a reluctant hero. When I ask how he’s handling his suspension, his eyes fill with tears.

“It’s been pretty tough. … I didn’t expect to end my career in such a dramatic and sudden way.”

Education needs people of principle. It needs people prepared to go against the trend and fight for transparency and fairness.

Firing Dorval would be typical yet extremely damaging.

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5 Responses to “The Case of a Teacher Suspended for Showing Integrity”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    I remember one grade 10 student to whom I gave a zero score. He complained bitterly. I asked him, “How many assignments did you hand in?” He hadn’t handed in any. “How many times did you contribute in lessons?” He had never once contributed. “How many questions did you attempt in topic tests?” Again, the answer was none. He then claimed he was entitled to some marks because he wrote his name on the top of his papers. I told him he had learned to write his name in Kindergarten and, “In the light of our little conversation I expect a zero mark is an accurate reflection of your achievements in this course. Wouldn’t you?”

    This student had been given every opportunity and encouragement possible including more of my time. He simply chose to do nothing. This was in one high school.

    Years later, when I taught in another high school, there was a similar policy to that of Ross Sheppard. Fortunately none of my students gave me cause to award zero marks or I may have finished my career in the same way as Lynden Dorval.

    Unfortunately I have met several principals who seem to think more of their “authority and responsibility” than they do of the truth. They are not easy to work for.

  2. sandy wilson Says:

    I think Mr. Dorval deserves a medal. Things are getting out of hand. we are handed all the power to the kids.It is time kids learned that not doing what they should has punishment not a pat onthe hands that say thats ok dont worry. That isnt how the world works .

  3. RainDancer Says:

    Great post! I really feel Mr. Dorval’s situation.
    I once had a talk with my principal about some zeros I had given to some students. He said I shouldn’t have given them, but then I said that those were students (9 graders) who couldn’t even write their names!
    Lowering the standards is the worst thing that can happen to education.

    • John Tapscott Says:

      We’re talking High School here. If students reach High School and are effectively illiterate one must ask what was happening in Primary School. I’m not talking about students with special needs. I have taught plenty of these and there are not many whose performance I would deem unsatisfactory; on the contrary.

      My concern is children with apparently normal or above normal levels of ability who turn up at high school with extremely low standards of literacy and numeracy. On investigation, what I find is a “rigorous” primary school syllabus in English and Maths. So rigorous that they try to teach abstract concepts to children still in the concrete operational stage. Why are children with little idea about how to construct a simple sentence bombarded with an overwhelming array of text types? Yes some children can handle it at the top range of ability but Primary School is where children should be learning the basics of literacy and numeracy and not being led off into intellectual excursions in the abstract realm.

      I am in favour of enrichment programs for bright children who are able to cope with such but let’s have no more of this leaving children behind in the quest for a rigorous syllabus, which in fact, is far beyond the cognitive capabilities of many students. These are the ones that get to High School unable to read and write and unable to do simple arithmetic because the syllabus was too hard for them already.

      I am not against rigour in education. I am against misplaced rigour. If you don’t start your teaching at a level where your children are at they will be lost when they get to High School because they will lack the foundation skills for High School work.

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