Girl humiliated over $5 by teacher

By Greg Gelpi

For many a class trip is a reason to rejoice, but for Adriele Gilmore a class field trip brought her to her tears.

"I was upset, but also sad because I didn't want everybody to think I was poor," Adriele Gilmore, 10, said.

The teacher announced that the class would have to beg to go on the trip, since someone didn't pay $5, she said, and the class turned and looked at her. The teacher had told students about Adriele not paying.

"I was really sad," she said. "I felt like crying."

Monica Gilmore, the student's mother, said a permission slip was sent home for the field trip explaining that the trip costs $5 per child, but that the $5 was optional.

With her husband recently laid off from work, Monica Gilmore said she couldn't afford the trip, but took comfort in knowing that her daughter would still be able to go on the trip.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Gilmores have experienced tough economic times, Monica Gilmore said, explaining that her husband was laid off from an airline company and then hired back on a part-time basis. She works part time at a retail store.

Her daughter's teacher, though, singled her daughter out on several occasions, asking her for the money in front of the class, her mother said.

When Monica Gilmore complained to Morrow Elementary Principal David Head, he offered to pay for her daughter to go on the trip.

"This lady just humiliated her, and I'm supposed to put her in her hands?" the mother asked.

Monica Gilmore called Area Superintendent Valya Lee, but didn't hear back from her until she hired a lawyer.

She said she doesn't want money. She wants her daughter transferred to another class or another school.

Head decided Monday to move Adriele Gilmore to a new class and said he dealt with the teacher.

"It's a personnel issue, and I've taken care of it," Head said.

He said that neither the state nor the county provides funding for field trips, so trips are canceled if enough students don't pay.

To his knowledge, this is the first time that something like this has happened at Morrow Elementary in his more than 20 years at the school.

Head said teachers get enough sensitivity training on the whole, "but that doesn't mean it is enough in every case."

The school system provides hundreds of classes for teachers each year, Margie Dam, executive director of staff development, said. Each year the school system offers more than 300 classes for credit, which means the class is at least 10 hours long, as well as hundreds more that are shorter and not for credit.

"One of our most popular offerings is Dealing with Students with Poverty," Dam said, and added that many of the classes touch on classroom management and how to interact with students.

Although teachers are required to have 100 hours of training every five years, she said the average teacher in the county has about 410 hours of training.

Deputy Superintendent Bill Horton said the school system has procedures in place for complaints.

"If a problem develops and there isn't a resolution, then there is a chain of command," Horton said.

The chain includes the assistant principal, principal, area superintendent and ultimately the superintendent, he said.

"It can be appealed to the superintendent, but I'm not aware of it ever getting that far," Horton said.

Problems are usually resolved through the chain of command, but seldom results in students changing schools or even changing classes, he said.

Speaking from his experience as the principal of Riverdale Middle School, Horton said that moving a student was "very, very rare."

"It would really have to be something extenuating," he said, adding that "it would create chaos" to let more than 50,000 students move around for any reason.

Students are assigned to schools and particular classes in schools in accordance with requirements from the county and state, Horton said.