Teachers are quitting and parents are pulling their kids from a private Berkeley music school after the major was fired in connection with a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary test entailing crustacean jokes.

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A 1998 documentary around The Crowden School mirrors Brad Johnson to teach an English class. Credit: The Crowden School

While many students it seems ~ to have been enjoy it by the weird fill-in-the-blanks in Johnson’s vocabulary tests, the sentences had actually received pushback in the past.

About 5 years ago, Johnson said, a parental complained around a concern that included the name of renowned serial killers. Johnson claimed he obliged, removing the names.

Last year, Johnson said, the parent of a black student took concern with a sentence that explained a thief in a food bank robbery: “Captured on the surveillance video cameras control the van, loading the weapons, and also editing the misspelled hold-up note, to be convicted the aiding and also a criminal companies in a food financial institution robbery.”

The parent brought the sentence to Fukawa, accusing Johnson that racism, yet Johnson said he just heard around it second-hand — never ever from Fukawa or the parental herself, only from another parent in the class. The assumed the parent let the go once she realized she child’s name had been chosen at arbitrarily to show up in the sentence.

“Oh, c’mon,” said Donna Jones, the parent of two Black students, once she heard Johnson to be accused that racism therefore test question. “I took my youngsters out that a public school precisely because I believed that they had lower expectations for black color students, and put castle in this school because Brad actually tested them.”

Jones claimed Johnson to be “nothing however supportive and kind to my 2 girls.” She is to plan to withdraw her younger daughter native Crowden end Johnson’s firing.


Dustin Breshears also plans to withdraw his youngsters from Crowden. His four children play together in a wire quartet that tours internationally and has earned countless awards because that chamber music. Breshears stated he can see how a kid could take a question the wrong way, however not in the paper definition of Johnson’s class.

“I thought, ‘Oh, somebody might be embarrassed by this,’” the said. “But what my kids told me to be that, since they were doing that all the time and also the name are always switched and everybody knew the the name were simply random, the didn’t bother anybody. It was really funny since your name might end up everywhere on the test.”

Johnson denies that he has ever before intentionally targeted kids with his vocab sentences. They space not meant to it is in taken literally, the insists, nor does he uncover them inappropriate. “I’m proud the those sentences,” that said, including that students claimed their absurdity do it simpler to psychic the vocabulary words.

“The reality that the students could enjoy—that they were willing to play along and have your names used in this way—is not the authorize of a disrespectful classroom. Simply the opposite: it is the sign of just how much respect, trust, and also comfort Brad cultivated in that class,” wrote mark Goble and also Elisa Tamarkin, two Crowden parents, in a letter come the plank protesting that is decision.

Mistrust operation deep

Despite the recent promise to inspection the firing, the problem has sown deep distrust among some parents and teachers, who now say that the executive, management director and the board have actually acted without accountability.

On Friday, ~ the school available to command an live independence investigation, three music teacher resigned in protest, saying the Johnson’s treatment, the school’s toxicity climate, and also their short pay and also low status contributed to the decision.

“We all feeling that we don’t have any type of value to the school, any type of of us can be thrown away, through no warning, v nothing,” stated Boloyan, that teaches violin and ensemble in ~ the school and also resigned Friday.

“It’s lot bigger than Brad, though it centers about him,” stated Laura Kakis Serper, the school’s director of choral music. Johnson has actually pushed for raises at the school, where scholastic teachers knife $58,000 every year.

Several parents stand firm in your decision to leave the school, saying Crowden’s mishandling that the dispute has turned them away for good.


“This has exposed an array of dysfunction in ~ the school that I would certainly say is primarily located in the senior leadership,” Jones said. “That this incident around what is essentially a trivial complaint around a vocabulary test has gained to this point demands not just an investigation of the complaint, but an ext importantly an examination of the an elderly management — the executive, management Director and the Board,” Jones added later in a message message. “So, sadly we space not returning.”

Other parental expressed a similar feeling the the latest solution from the plank is no enough. Justin Davis, a parent leading the efforts for Johnson to be reinstated, desires Fukawa to break her silence and also personally apologize come the community.He’s also calling for greater transparency native Crowden administrators.

“The truth is Doris and the board just can’t it is in trusted,” Breshears composed in a text message. “I’m no going to save my youngsters at the school due to the fact that the spirit and also the learning setting have currently been destroyed.”

While Johnson himself declined to comment on the announcement, his lawyer was doubtful that the promised examination was anything yet “a sham ‘show.’”

“You will pardon me if i am incredulous in ~ the absurdity of this patent ‘star chamber’ or ‘kangaroo court’ gift convened by Mr. Koh and his associates, and the transparency of where he and also the Board are headed v this attempt to whitewash your actions and also cover up the true and complete facts,” Hugo N. Gerstl composed in a letter to an elderly administrators Friday evening.

But, Gerstl wrote, Johnson would agree to an investigation if the is conducted relatively — consisted of of equal parts parents, teachers and administrators — and if it examines the administration’s actions, as well as Johnson’s.

“Are you ready to accept this challenge?” Gerstl inquiry the administrators.

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Correction: A previous version of this story misreported one of the names of the 3 music teachers who have actually resigned. The teachers space Jane Lee, Heghine Boloyan and Monica Scott.


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