LOS ANGELES (AP) — Students and parents are calling for the return of a popular Los Angeles high school science teacher who was suspended from the classroom after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators.
Supporters rallied outside the downtown Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts Thursday morning and have gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition that calls for the return of teacher Greg Schiller.
Schiller was suspended in February after two students turned in science-fair projects designed to shoot small projectiles. Schiller was suspended, with pay, pending an investigation.
One project used compressed air to shoot an object but wasn’t connected to an air pressure source. Another project used power from a AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil.
A school employee saw the air-pressure project and reported that it looked like a weapon. Schiller said he never saw the completed projects except in photos.
Union representative Roger Scott said Los Angeles Unified School District administrators suspended Schiller for “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons.”
School administrators didn’t respond to requests for comment and district officials said they couldn’t discuss an ongoing investigation.
“As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” said United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher.
The 43-year-old Schiller was the teachers’ union representative on campus and was dealing with disagreements with administrators.
Schiller teaches Advanced Placement biology, psychology and regular and honors biology. The AP exams, which allow students to qualify for college credit, are in May.
“The class is now essentially a free period,” said 17-year-old psychology student Liana Kleinman. “The sub does not have a psych background and can’t help us with the work.”
Though Schiller initially prepared lesson plans for the substitute, district officials directed him to stop in an email.
“This is really hurting my students more than anything else,” Schiller said. “I would never do anything to set up a situation where a student could be harmed.”
Schiller initially prepared lesson plans for the substitute, but the district directed him to stop in an email. Schiller also coaches the school’s fencing team, but administrators have determined the team can’t compete safely without him there.