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DC teachers complain of retaliation city-wide for whistle blowing

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 2/19/2019 Delia Goncalves

A long-time preschool teacher at Bridges Public Charter School claims she was recently fired for speaking out about increasing transparency in the charter school system.

Liz Koenig, a regular at education hearings, is the teacher behind a petition calling for more transparency and she was recently let go from her position.

She is not alone. Education advocates say the problem is bigger than Koenig's one case.

Latisha Chisholm is a DC Public School Teacher and was fired from Ballou High School, she says, simply because she was the Washington Teachers' Union representative.

“The two prior building reps before me were also let go," Chisholm said. "So it wasn't that I felt retaliated against, but we actually filed a grievance about it and two years later a hearing officer found I was retaliated against."

Most charter school teachers are not protected by the union. Still, many like Gazelle Astrado continue to speak out.

“A lot of people want to keep things under wraps,” said Astrado. “It's definitely a tough choice to make. I would say tread lightly.”  

“We work with the students we work with because we really care,” added Chisholm. “The value of speaking out is because it could help even one student, one family, or one school.”

The educators said the message to parents and community members is to support your teacher leaders.  

“And support groups like Empower ED that's doing this work on the ground level and demand that changes happen,” said Astrado.

“It shouldn't be a question to anyone in protecting teachers right to voice and speech just as much if not more than other people,” said Chisholm.  

The teacher who was removed from her job, Koenig, will leave at the end of the school year but continues to her advocacy. Bridges Public Charter School’s founder and principal have not responded to comment yet because of February recess.

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