Weber teacher was using method to teach adult class she learned at conference

Apr 15 2014 - 8:38pm

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PLEASANT VIEW - Weber High School teacher Ashley Williams was teaching a method learned at a Current Technical Education Conference last summer when she instructed students to list slang terms for genitalia, according to a teachers union official.

The conference was paid for by Weber School District.  Williams is currently on paid administrative leave while district officials investigate accusations of an inappropriate lesson taught in her "Adult Roles and Financial Literacy Class" on Friday. One parent, whose child is enrolled in the class, said parents signed a statement allowing their children to attend the class and acknowledging the subject matter. The parent, who asked not to be identified, supports Williams.  

A student complained to the school's administration about the lesson and when administrators went to the classroom they found words describing private male and female parts written on a whiteboard.  District spokesman  Nate Taggart said that Williams was not suspended, but put on paid leave immediately on Friday after the incident was reported and discovered while the district investigates along with Utah Education Association representatives.

Matt Ogle, executive director of Ogden/Weber UniServ, said they will be representing Williams and that because of the investigation she cannot speak to media or it would jeopardize the investigation. Ogle thinks the investigation will be wrapped up quickly - in the next couple of days.

"We are hopeful she will be treated fairly by the process and with equity," Ogle said.

Williams has been teaching in the Weber School District for approximately eight years, starting at Roy Junior High School and is now at Weber High School.

"She has been an exemplary teacher and I have heard that the administration has thought of her as a good teacher," Ogle said.  

Williams attended a CTE conference during the summer where a roundtable discussion was held between teachers where the idea for the lesson of describing the body parts was presented, Ogle said. Williams decided to try it in her classroom this year - but has never taught it in previous years.

The class is a concurrent enrollment class taught through Weber State University. Beth Rhoades, WSU Concurrent Enrollment Program administrator, said high school teachers such as Williams become adjunct professors when teaching concurrent enrollment courses. But Williams is still employed by the Weber School District, so any action taken will be taken by the district, not the university.

Rhoades did say that the course has the same curriculum as the university course and that instructors are strongly encouraged to teach correct terminology that is appropriate.

 "They do have academic freedom to each as they see fit, but she probably should have chosen a different way," Rhoades said. 

Rhoades said she and Child and Family Studies Department Chair Paul Schvaneveldt discussed the issue.

"They (teachers) have been advised to teach content with sensitivity for the cultural setting we are in," Rhoades said.

The concurrent enrollment teachers do go through training given by the university and are given all curriculum including tests. The method Williams was using was not part of that curriculum and the CTE conference was also not approved by the university, Rhoades said.

Ogle said it is not uncommon for districts to have teachers attend additional training where teachers can talk about teaching styles and techniques that have worked in their classrooms.

"They discuss best practices and she got it from them," Ogle said.  He added that it is important to note that Williams is on paid leave, not suspended.  

Taggart said the district has received a handful of calls on both sides of the issue today.

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