A beloved science teacher at a public high school in downtown Los Angeles has been suspended because a school employee was afraid that a kid’s air pressure-related science project looked too much like a weapon.
The teacher, Greg Schiller, was suspended (with pay) back in February. He teaches – or taught – at the brutally futuristic-looking $232 million Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts (also called Grand Arts High School).
Schiller got into trouble after two of his students turned in science projects designed to shoot little projectiles, reports the Los Angeles Times. One of the projects used compressed air (but was not actually connected to any air). The other one was coil gun: a tube surrounded by a coil and powered by a standard AA battery.
An unidentified school employee saw the air-pressure projectile device and got scared because, to her, it looked like a fearsome weapon.
The amount of knowledge the employee has concerning science – if any – is unclear.
As a result of the unnamed employee’s fears, Schiller – who actually never got to see either the air-pressure project or the coil project except in photos – was dismissed from the classroom indefinitely.
School officials impounded both projects as “evidence,” according to the mother of the kid who did the coil project.
Officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District reportedly told Schiller his crime was “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons.” However, district officials aren’t commenting on the suspension.
The teacher’s union is defending Schiller.
“As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” Warren Fletcher, president of the Los Angeles teachers union, told the Times.
Students and parents want Schiller, 43, to return immediately to the classroom. Their campaign for his reinstatement has included a rally and a petition and, of course, forays into social media.
Students in Schiller’s various classes say they are getting screwed over massively—particularly the ones in Advanced Placement courses who would like to take and pass AP tests for college credit.
“The class is now essentially a free period,” AP psychology student Liana Kleinman informed the Times. “The sub does not have a psych background and can’t help us with the work.”
Schiller is sad for his students.
“This is really hurting my students more than anything else,” he told the paper. “I would never do anything to set up a situation where a student could be harmed.”
At a White House Science Fair in February 2012, President Barack Obama shot a marshmallow across the State Dining Room with the help of an pressurized air gun invented by 14-year-old Joey Hudy. The “Extreme Marshmallow Cannon” can launch marshmallows up to 175 feet—over half a football field.
Obama was not suspended from his duties as president after the White House air-pressure gun incident.