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Officials: Teacher's Problems Bigger Than Anti-Islam Speaker in Class

Posted October 17, 2007

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— Problems with a Wake County teacher ran much deeper than his decision to invite an anti-Islam speaker to class, Wake Public Schools officials said Wednesday.

In a rare move, officials released a portion of former Enloe High School teacher Robert Escamilla’s personnel file to the media Wednesday. Escamilla called the assessment unfair and said his style wasn't questioned for 18 years at Enloe.

An investigation last year showed he asked sex education questions on history tests, was unable to produce grades and made disparaging comments, labeling one student "miss Jew" during a teaching exercise, according to the file.

Officials also said he was unable to produce grades for four of his six classes and did not have instructional plans.

Escamilla was suspended with pay on Feb. 27 after he invited Kamil Solomon, head of Kamil International Ministries, to his class on Feb. 15. Solomon handed out pamphlets entitled “Why Women Should Not Marry Muslims.”

School officials said e-mails revealed that Escamilla knew Solomon's presentation and distribution of materials would denigrate Islam and promote Christianity. In one such e-mail, Solomon said he did not support the idea of Muslims attending the guest-speaking engagement.

School officials said Escamilla crossed a line, and the speaker was unacceptable. Escamilla was later transferred to Mary E. Phillips High School. Escamilla testified Monday before a grievance committee in his effort to get a 12-page reprimand removed from his employment file.

On Tuesday, the school board decided to keep Escamilla's reprimand in the personnel file and he will remain at Mary E. Phillips High School.

In a memorandum, Wake County Schools Superintendent Del Burns wrote that there were issues regarding Escamilla's performance of his teaching duties, particularly in his World History and Freshman Seminar classes. School officials interviewed students who reported they did little or no work in Escamilla's class.

“What we saw and heard from other students caused us great concern,” said Wake Schools’ spokesman Michael Evans.

The students also told school officials they often spent the majority of class time watching feature-length films and other videos, some of which did not have anything to do with courses. In one instance, students said they were told to write a book report on any book in the classroom, and the report did not have to be about a world history topic.

Another instance involved several questions on sex education on Escamilla's World History mid-term exam. Students said they received up to 50 points credit if students took books home over winter break and returned them upon their return.

Escamilla's personnel file also states that the teacher made derogatory comments to students based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion.

Escamilla said Wednesday that his teaching style is unconventional and his teaching performance for 18 years was never an issue.

"Not one of those years have I ever gotten any kind of remote unsatisfactory rating," he said. "All kinds of 'superiors,' 'well above average,' 'above average.' I haven't even gotten 'average.'"

Escamilla said much of the information in the personnel file was taken out of context. He said the sex education questions dealt with the worldwide AIDS crisis.

The information in Escamilla's personnel file was disclosed after the Wake County Board of Education decided Tuesday to release its details.

"We hope that it's enough to let the public know there are two sides to the issue," said school board member Patti Head.

"Given the level of misinformation being presented to the public by Mr. Escamilla and his representatives, this board felt it was absolutely necessary to take the steps to protect our integrity," Rosa Gill, chair of the Wake Board of Education, said Tuesday in a news release.

A recent curriculum audit raised questions about teacher evaluation. Auditors complained that evaluations lacked feedback and that most teachers received average or above-average ratings.

School officials said they are working to improve teacher evaluations. As for Escamilla, they said he's a good teacher with proven results in advanced history classes. He'll remain at the alternative high school, where the board says he'll have more supervision.

Superintendent Burns interviewed Escamilla when Burns was an assistant principal at Enloe. In his letter of reprimand, Burns said he remembers the young teacher as being full of promise.

Escamilla said he has not ruled out taking legal action against the school system.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Sweetgrl3 Oct 19, 2007

    I think the schools should bring back Christianity. There is nothing wrong with expressing your beliefs. It seems only certain religions are allowed to while others are not. This is sad. When I was at Enloe, Mr. Escamillia taught me quite a bit about history. He made the class interesting and I never heard him say anything offensive. I have been out of school for 16 years and know many students who have been taught by him and all are sticking up for him. I hope he sues and wins. They have nothing on him in 18 years and now they reprimand him. There is no way they can justify this since he has not been written up during his career.

  • cdukes1 Oct 18, 2007

    Mr. Escamilla crossed the line at Enloe High School before this incident. He was known to quote scripture on The 'Loe Down morning news show while making announcements about Driver's Ed.

    The video crew was quick with the mute button...
    For awhile, only pre-recorded announcements from him were allowed to air.

    He should be teaching at a Christian school. 'Nuff said.

  • Justin T. Oct 18, 2007

    ltbarkley said, "This is about an educator - so EDUCATE yourselves on this situation, then come back and post. It is fairly obvious he is being railroaded."

    Though I agree that everyone should get as much information as possible, I hardly see being reassigned as being railroaded. I also see the school board's decision to fight back as smart based on Escamilla asking for the reprimand to be removed and possibly taking legal action.

    He is lucky to work for the government or he would not have a job at all.

  • Professor Studley Oct 18, 2007


    What does this link have to do with anything? I fail to see your point. Two people are arrested for causing a five-car accident in Malaysia and a teacher is reprimanded for teaching bigotry in the US. I'm missing the point, and I am guessing that you are too intelligent to use the story to say something negative about Islam. Christians can be arrested for reckless driving too (and a few of them actually have been). Even in the U.S." --happymom

    Ok... I have been sitting back enjoying the discussion here, and well this takes the cake...

    happymom... now why is it that the couple ran and drove recklessly? What was it they were running from?

  • Timbo Oct 18, 2007

    Semprini, give an example where the scenario you detailed has happened?

    If you can't, then maybe you should quit playing the "poor downtrodden christian" routine.

  • haggis basher Oct 18, 2007

    " Ive seen many images of islamist dancing in the streets on the day of 9/11"
    Duh! And you wish to be be as indoctrinated as them? One would hope our society is a little more enlightened than theirs and that we would not reacte in the same ignorant bigoted way. many post here make me fear that this is not the case. Mr. Escamilla
    is being railroaded no doubt and there are others at the school who should go too for having allowed him to do what he did. He still should have known that what he was doing was just plain wrong and he stepped way over the line.

  • Iron Man Oct 18, 2007

    I'm apauled at the way the school system has handled this situation. It is much like how Duke University handle the Lacrosse matter. Just threw the 3 individual players to the wolves and the team to the dogs. Shows a total lack of good judgment!!!!!

  • Semprini Oct 18, 2007

    If this teacher supported Islam and had a Muslim speaker who bashed Christianity, this would not even be an issue. The teacher would receive praise for his educational outsourcing from the school administration.

  • mvnull Oct 18, 2007

    Y'all might want to actually read the 12-page document. The first page introduces it and mentions that Mr. Escamilla was uncooperative. The next 10 pages are a very detailed list of emails and other correspondence. This establishes that Mr. Escamilla knew what Mr. Solomon was going to present. In fact, Mr. Escamilla specifically asked for him to talk about Islam, and not just his experiences with persecution. The last page covers the minor stuff.

  • ltbarkley Oct 18, 2007

    I see many comments on this story from people that have not taken the time to see the other side - Mr. Escamilla's side. Here are the relevant links that shoot down everything the School Board is trying to do.
    http://www.robertescamilla.com/ - the student-created page that gives a detailed timeline, including the fact the poor rating of him was given AFTER this all started.. hmmm..

    How about the COMPLETE unedited interview with him?

    This is about an educator - so EDUCATE yourselves on this situation, then come back and post. It is fairly obvious he is being railroaded.