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People rise up against puritanical discipline

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Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010

The curtain loudly having crashed down on this unnecessary and ridiculous drama, Lori Walters should take a bow.

Her performance in the proceedings helped rally a community to try to right a wrong, and helped steer back on track the swerving career of a woman she never met.

"The way this turned out makes me pretty happy," Walters, 37, of Grindstone in Fayette County, acknowledged Friday.

The previous evening, Brownsville Area School District directors decided that one of its teachers no longer had to wear the scarlet "B" -- the dreaded penalty for engaging in what generally is considered standard conduct at a bachelorette party.

Superintendent Philip J. Savini prematurely ended the unpaid suspension of the unidentified harlot instructor, who dared socialize at such a party reportedly attended by several of her Brownsville Area High School peers.

How questionable is this woman's character• So much so that she failed to immediately grab and smash the camera when someone took a picture of her, fully clothed, in what some school directors considered a provocative pose with a male stripper.

How brazen was her behavior• So much so that she didn't even attempt to obtain an injunction to shut down the online social network site where the picture temporarily turned up after someone posted it. (The photo has long since vanished from the site.)

Her penalty probably would have been less severe had she not in the past engaged in such morally questionable activities as being a popular Spanish teacher and coach of the girls' volleyball team.

But the board considered her conduct in its totality, and gave her 30 school days off, so that she could contemplate her transgressions before returning to school properly shamed.

Who would possibly object to such a fitting punishment?

Walters, that's who.

"I thought it was ridiculous," she said. "As long as she isn't breaking the law or doing anything (improper) involving children, what she does on her own time is her business."

Walters was concerned her daughter's education would suffer, because the suspended teacher was her Spanish instructor.

"They suspended her for six weeks out of a nine-week grading period, and the substitute they brought in couldn't even speak Spanish," she said. "Can you believe that?"

Walters could not, so she created a Facebook page lobbying for the teacher's reinstatement.

"I was shocked at how fast it took off," she said. "I thought 10 or 15 people might join, but every time I checked my computer another 30 or 40 people had signed up."

The page has about 1,900 members. More than 550 people signed two online petitions on the page calling for the suspension to be lifted.

With public sentiment clearly on the teacher's side, and the American Civil Liberties Union getting involved in the dispute, the dim bulbs who punished the poor woman finally saw the light.

Walters professed to be amazed that such controversy was caused by a photo few people saw, and apparently even fewer found objectionable.

"In this day and age, I'm sure people see worse things on 'General Hospital,' " she said.

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