5th grade charter school teacher Mika Yamamoto, fired from Michigan’s Renaissance Public School Academy, where she was the only teacher of color, claims she was told by her principal, “The community is not ready for your voice.”

Since this past November, when I interviewed the mother of Josie Ramon, the 12 year old Royal Oak Middle School student who taped classmates chanting “Build the wall” at her and other Hispanic students, I occasionally get notes from people, asking that I help get the word out about similar things taking place within Michigan’s schools. And that’s how today’s interview came about. Someone wrote to me and asked that I talk with Mika Yamamoto, a charter school teacher who had recently been fired for, as it was explained to me, “talking about inclusion and oppression.” Here’s our discussion.

MARK: Do I understand correctly that you were recently fired from the Michigan charter school where you taught 5th grade?

MIKA: Yes, I was fired about two months ago, on December 7, from Renaissance Public School Academy, in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

MARK: And, prior to being fired, you were suspended, correct?

MIKA: Yes, I was displaced a week prior to the termination.

MARK: By “displaced,” do you mean that you were told not to come work?

MIKA: Yes. They told me to “relax at home.”

MARK: The woman that first introduced me to you, if I remember correctly, told me that you were the only teacher of color at your school. Is that the case? And, if so, do you think that race entered into the decision to suspend you?

MIKA: Yes. I was the only teacher of color there. Maybe, ever. And yes, I was racially discriminated against.

MARK: So, it’s your belief then that you were fired because of your race?

MIKA: Yes. I was fired for exercising my first amendment right to speak as a member of oppressed group to empower the oppressed.

MARK: I’m assuming that’s not the reason they gave you… When you asked why you’d been suspended, what did they tell you?

MIKA: They didn’t give me a reason. They didn’t even tell me they were suspending me. In fact, my principal lied to me to get me out of the building. She said she would be putting a substitute in my room for two days so that we could talk about how to teach tolerance.

MARK: So, when she asked you to not to report for work, you thought that this was a good thing, that your principal wanted to work with you about how to implement a curriculum.

MIKA: Yes!

MARK: When you say “teach tolerance,” what do you mean?

MIKA: Teaching Tolerance is a system for talking about diversity, and building strong K-12 communities, that was developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. I received training in how to implement the system when I was beginning my teaching career. I remember it to be meaningful, but brutal. To teach tolerance, you have to examine intolerance and what the consequences of that are. And that’s not easy. What is easy, though, is getting children to care. They get it. They know what oppression feels like…. If you think about it, children are an oppressed class.

MARK: So it’s kind of framework to talk about diversity, thereby fostering a capacity for empathy in students?

MIKA: Yes. I’ve come to think of it as “space-making.” But, also, teaching tolerance means that we ourselves have to always be practicing with them, and not just rely on lazy thinking. For me, every moment of teaching has to be done within the teaching tolerance framework.

MARK: What do you mean by “lazy thinking”?

MIKA: Well, platitudes are an example. Too much of elementary school curriculums is about platitudes. Adults love to hear children parrot cliches. This, however, does not foster empathy or learning of any kind.

MARK: Why were you having this conversation about teaching tolerance with your principal?

MIKA: The day after the election, I gave a speech to the entire middle-school. The event had been scheduled prior to the election. The middle-school teachers, knowing that I wrote, had asked me to give a talk about how to write horror, and it just happened to have been slated for the day after Trump won… I was asked to speak in the capacity of a writer, not as a teacher.

MARK: Knowing other teachers who had to get up and talk in front of classes that day, and having heard them talk about how difficult it was, I can imagine a lot was going through your head… wanting to address what had happened in some meaningful way, while, at the same time, perhaps not wanting to get overtly political…

MIKA: Yes. I remember thinking, “What is there to say on a day like this?”

MARK: So what did you tell the middle schoolers?

MIKA: I talked about writing from experience, as a woman and a domestic violence survivor. I discussed Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which is about a mother that has to choose between either a life of slavery for her children, or death. Women’s lives have always been horrific, I said, so it makes sense that we write horror. And I said that, on that particular day, I felt less safe than ever, because our country had just elected a president who had openly spoken out against women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other people he felt were different than him. I told the students that I saw this as a call to arms to share our stories honestly in order to make safe space.

MARK: So you shared something very personal with them, and encouraged them to be brave, tell their own stories, etc…

MIKA: Yes… In the speech I said, “I will share with you my darkness so you feel safe to share your darkness with me, such that we can vanquish the darkness together.”

MARK: Then what happened?

MIKA: The very next day, on Thursday, a girl, let’s call her B, confided in me that she had been experiencing severe racism at school, but had told nobody because she was afraid people would think she was making a big deal out of it. A boy in her class was showing her pictures of slaves and laughing. He told her he “liked it when they got beat,” and thought it was funny. B’s best friend, the boy’s girlfriend, had also joined in. Together, she said, they taunted her. They wouldn’t stop, even after she repeatedly asked them to. According to B, the white male music teacher witnessed it at one point and did nothing but tell the boy to put the pictures away.

MARK: And what did you do with this information?

MIKA: I told our principal the following day, which was the Friday after election. She didn’t hesitate to say that what happened to the girl was wrong, and she promised to address it. In the next breath, however, she implied that I should never have given the talk.

MARK: Did she say explicitly why?

MIKA: She said “a huge Trump-supporting” white male student had gone home and complained about it… I remember that he’d tried walk out when I said that women make less than men across the board. He was apparently made uncomfortable by this fact. Okay. That’s fine. I’m uncomfortable about this fact too. But let’s look at the subtext, here. A female of color was made to feel safe enough to advocate for her rights because of my talk, while one white male was made uncomfortable by the facts of my talk. I was being silenced, it seemed, because it was not okay to make a female of color feel safe if it also meant that a white male would be made to feel uncomfortable. What does that say about priorities?

MARK: And I assume you noted this disparity to your principal. How did she respond?

MIKA: This is when the issue of my safety was raised for the first time. My principal said, “I’m not going to tell you what you can and cannot talk about, but I’m just trying to keep you safe.” The implication was that I wasn’t safe.

MARK: OK, so how long after the speech in front of the middle school did the suspension happen?

MIKA: Three weeks.

MARK: What, specifically, brought about the suspension?

MIKA: My speech did what I intended it to. It empowered students to advocate for themselves and others. After that day, I had many students approach me about concerns they have in their lives. When I relayed these stories to our principal, she sighed, “You’ve opened up a whole can of worms, Mika.” On the Monday after Thanksgiving, a student sought me out to tell me that she felt unsafe at home. As a teacher, I am obligated to report this to Children’s Protective Services. The principal, however, did not want me to. We met for two and a half hours the next day, discussing this situation. When she couldn’t get me to agree to not report it, she transitioned into a discussion of my safety again. I was given a false option. I was told that I could be silent, be endangered, or leave. She said, “The community is not ready for your voice.” She clarified that she intended the racist implication of this statement by explaining, “People always asked me why I didn’t have a more diverse staff. When I hired you, I didn’t hire you because of that, I hired you for other reasons. But it happened! I made it happen! And I was so happy. But now I think I set you up, because the community wasn’t ready for you.”

MARK: Wait. She actually said this to you?

MIKA: Yes. She said that maybe in a place like Chicago or New York my voice could do powerful things, but the community we were in was not ready for me. I was being discriminated against. A white male teacher would not be told the community wasn’t ready for his voice. Also, my minority status was being used against me to intimidate me against whistle-blowing. I e-mailed the principal that night voicing my concerns regarding my treatment.

MARK: You mentioned earlier that your principal lied to you to get you out of the school. What happened?

MIKA: Yes. The next morning, she called me into a meeting with her and the curriculum coordinator… The curriculum coordinator is the only other administrator in the school… She said, “You have to stop using your voice.” And he agreed with her.

MARK: What did you say?

MIKA: I told them that they were violating my first amendment rights. I was also very clear that I was being racially discriminated against.

MARK: And how did they respond?

MIKA: They repeated over and over that the community was not ready for my voice. They even said that there were members of the staff who were not ready to discuss diversity. The conversation came to an impasse, since I didn’t relent on holding them accountable for being inclusive. They are obligated to do so by federal law and the charter of the school. Finally, they said I should go home and take care of myself for the rest of the day, and that they would put a substitute in my room for two days so that the three of us could meet to discuss diversity and tolerance. When I got home, human resources told me I was not to return to campus for the next two days.

MARK: Did you receive any kind of warning prior to the suspension? Did they tell you that, if you didn’t comply, you’d be terminated?

MIKA: No. They gave me no directives. At the end of the meeting, the principal hugged me. The curriculum coordinator then walked me down to my classroom chatting about his annual Beer and Chocolate Party at his house that I was planning to attend. I didn’t know that they were planning to terminate me.

MARK: Did you reach out to representatives from the school, and not just HR people, since all of this happened?

MIKA: I emailed the principal of the school immediately. She confirmed that I should stay home. The next morning I reached out to the principal, the curriculum coordinator, and HR to continue the dialogue about teaching tolerance. Nobody responded. I got no response for my request to be reinstated either.

MARK: I’m just curious… Is Renaissance Public School Academy a part of a larger charter school entity?

MIKA: Yes, they’re chartered through Central Michigan University and managed by Charter School Partners.

MARK: I see one article about CS Partners expanding in Michigan, in spite less than stellar performance, but I’m not finding much about their corporate structure or history. Do you know if CS Partners is a for-profit firm?

MIKA: I didn’t know the answer to this and also couldn’t find it anywhere. Apparently, it’s not as straight-forward a question as one would think.

MARK: This is kind of off the subject, but, as I didn’t know much about Central Michigan University’s role in sponsoring charter schools, I just did a little looking around and discovered that they operate something called the John Engler Center for Charter Schools, which is the entity that authorized CS Schools. Not only that, but the President of CS Schools, Mary Kay Shields, was, just prior to joining CS Schools, the Chief Deputy Director of the John Engler Center for Charter Schools. In fact, she was mentioned in a recent Detroit Free Press investigation into “insider dealing” in Michigan’s charter school industry. It seems Shields is one of several charter authorizers who left for more lucrative jobs at management companies like CS Schools, which run the schools they authorized. I don’t have a question for you. I just find it interesting.

MIKA: Two weeks after the election, I was at the CS annual conference. I noted that Mary Kay Shields did not make a statement of inclusion, nor did anyone else.

MARK: When did you start teaching at Renaissance?

MIKA: I started there this fall. I’d only been there three months.

MARK: What was your teaching experience prior to this?

MIKA: I’ve always taught in public schools, starting at an inner-city school in Los Angeles. This is where I received my training in the Teaching Tolerance program. Inner-city school teachers have to know how to speak about racism. Public schools lack agility, which can be frustrating, but I’ve never witnessed anything like this – where apparently no rules apply. This is utter chaos. None of my colleagues could speak-up on my behalf because there is such a great threat that they too would lose their jobs for doing so. In fact, only one teacher has reached out to me at all. I am eternally grateful to this teacher for the courage and kindness she has shown in doing so, since none of my other friends at work did.

Charter school teachers have no contract and no union. In an at-will state, this means that they can be fired for almost any reason. Charter school teachers usually get paid poorly compared to public school teachers, so teachers often don’t have the financial security to be jobless for even a short time. As an example, I’ve never been paid so little as a teacher. I have years of experience and a master’s degree. Nonetheless, I was making less at Renaissance than I was my first year teaching, almost 20 years ago without experience or a master’s degree. These conditions directly cause a lack of academic freedom to teach. There are dire consequences for this. If teachers are afraid to advocate for student safety, or are fired for discussing oppression, what happens to our society? This experience, gives me even more reason to be concerned with the appointment of Betsy Devos.

MARK: I heard that some of your students protested to get you back?

MIKA: The students decided to become Agents of Change, instead of victims. They put up posters in my room that say things like, “Help stick up For Ms. Yamamoto Because we love her!” Three girls made 35 posters and gave them to the principal, asking her to put them up all over the school. Another student said she was going to ask to go to all the classrooms and tell them what has happened to me. They did what they could, knowing they were taking certain risks.

I feel bad for the children in all of this. Their teacher was taken out of the classroom, in the middle of the day, without giving them any explanation. And they didn’t hear anything for two whole days. When the principal finally talked to them, she said that I needed to stay home so that I could feel safe. Aside from not being true, what message does that send to the children? Are they supposed to feel safe in a school that their teacher felt too unsafe to be in? I was worried sick about them. But this group of kids has always been strong, smart, and kind. They have learned the lessons of tolerance well. They understood what Elie Wiesel meant when he said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

They felt that there had been a great injustice. They took a side. They didn’t stay silent. They didn’t use being children as an excuse for inaction. They used their voices with power.

MARK: Would I be right to assume that, inside the charter school you worked for, things were relatively regimented? Was there, in other words, an expectation that you’d just read from the workbooks, sticking to the script, and not bring too much of yourself to the job?

MIKA: Oh no! Absolutely not! The reason I decided to work there despite the poor pay was because I was wooed with the promise that this principal was progressive, and I would have great academic freedom. My position in the school only declined precipitously after I spoke out against oppression.

MARK: So, what’s next for you?

MIKA: I will fight the good fight in court with my amazing lawyer, Julie Gafkay. But I miss my students terribly, every day, and I’m heartbroken because nothing will put me back in their classroom again. I can only hope they keep their promises and continue to write. If they do, we will always be able to find a way back to each other, and together we can vanquish this unspeakable night befalling us.

[note: The photo of Mika Yamamoto at this top of this post was taken by Miriam Berkley.]

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145 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    While Betsy DeVos wants to destroy public education because she sees secularism as anti-Christian, most Republicans want to see it gone as the teachers unions are a thorn in their sides. This story demonstrates what life will be like without unions in our schools, with teachers barely making enough to live, afraid of rocking the boat for fear of immediate termination. This is our future.

  2. Kristin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    She was my son’s teacher & one of the most amazing educators I’ve ever met!

  3. Chrissy Danguilan
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Wow. Freaking DECEMBER 7th?!!! SMMFH

  4. Mark Tucker
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Thanks for conducting and sharing this amazing interview, Mark. I am in awe of Mika Yamamoto–she is my hero! Putting aside the egregious actions that this school has taken against Mika (while putting our entire educational system at risk, if you think about it) with their small-minded, underhanded, racist motivations, the most chilling part of Mika’s story to me, is the silencing effect it had on her colleagues–an effect, stemming from fear, that wasn’t born simply out of the influence of this recent election, or Mika’s dismissal, but was already pervasive in our work culture. Where have we gone wrong? How has our society already silenced us? I recently spoke out in support of a stellar colleague who had been swiftly and opaquely dismissed (from a large public education institution–U-M), and I was struck by the fact that not a single other faculty or staff member spoke up publicly on his behalf–out of fear of what? Retaliation? Losing their jobs? –What about losing one’s soul?? What about losing one’s dignity?? What about losing one’s own self-respect?? –You said it so well, Mika, and if we don’t stick up for each other when we see an injustice, who will stick up for us when it is our turn? I hope that another school administrator reads this and acknowledges your gifts, particularly as a teacher who has the talent and good judgement to discuss and teach tolerance to our children (something that is VERY hard for teachers to learn to do) and will recognize your extraordinary abilities and will hire you to continue to do what you do best; teaching our youngsters how to break the chains of intolerance and ignorance that has infected and endangered our democracy. Our future hope is with our kids and the teachers who influence them. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in Mika!

  5. Jordan Miller
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Mark thanks for continuing to share important stories. This interview was eye-opening – I think this is a big part of the rise of Trump (not to tie everything back to Trump, but…) — when kids don’t learn empathy and inclusion at home, and they don’t learn it at school, they don’t learn it. It’s terrifying.

  6. Tara Rase
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    This kind of thing was common at the charter school my husband taught at in Chicago. They fired a black teacher for calling out the racism of a few of the students, who were in fact being racist. They fired many other teachers for “infractions” such as getting holiday pay or simply refusing to do things like pretend a student who couldn’t read English could. And during his tenure they got 90 million in tax payer money to do it and much more after he left.

  7. EOS
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Mika,
    You were vague about the details of what you did/said in the classroom. What was the “darkness” you shared with your classroom? And what activity did you engage in that caused such concern?

  8. Ian Fulcher
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Just…

  9. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Weird interview.

    I don’t get it.

    Was Mika giving her social and political philosophies to 5th graders in general and at the talk she gave to middle schoolers? Was Mika sharing inappropriate emotional/traumatic experiences about her life?What exactly did she say? Did anyone videotape the talk, so we can listen to the nature of the talk?

    It sounds like there was a disagreement about whether or not Mika’s talk was appropriate given the young age of audience….But I don’t know……I would like to learn more about what happened…..

  10. parent
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    As a parent of a Renaissance student, only one side of this story is presented here. I can tell you that this only one side of what happened. Ms. yamamoto was intimidating and threatening toware the students and other teachers. Her teaching, no matter her ethnic background was very frightening to the children. And very very unprofessional.

  11. Cookies
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Correct me if I am wrong but I think the issue is that she as a teacher shared her political views to a group of middle schoolers. Being a parent myself i don’t care what side you’re on that’s not acceptable. I feel she used an opportunity to push her agenda and dislike for the now president. I don’t think that should be allowed no matter who you are. This is school and your job is to teach.

  12. More to the Story
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, Ms. Yamamoto is only giving her side of this story. I know first-hand that the reasons for her termination had nothing to do with the speech she gave or the “tolerance” lessons she attempted to “teach” (those quotes are intentional because the terms are loosely applied). Ms. Yamamoto violated numerous ethical rules and exhibited aggressive, unprofessional, and bullying behavior. I could give a long list of specific examples, but since this is an ongoing legal dispute I will show discretion in ways that Ms. Yamamoto is apparently incapable. Mark Maynard, it is highly irresponsible to publish this one-sided interview, and this inflammatory, oversimplified “news” is only harming the causes you wish to champion. I encourage you to take this down from your site until the matter is resolved.

  13. K.T.
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    We will hear again from Mika Yamamoto. She is a gifted agent of change. I feel sad for her and her students. I earned my teaching degree at CMU and will NEVER forgive them for groveling for the charter school dollars.

  14. Nora Smith
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    This is so wrong. This is why I’m not for charter schools. They should not receive government assistance if they can run their schools like this

  15. M
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Clearly the school has marshaled their resources to respond. I’m struck by the consistency of these last several messages, all of which portray Ms. Yamamoto as an intimidator of children, that exhibited “aggressive, unprofessional, and bullying behavior.” Clearly that’s how they intend to fight this case in court.

  16. Kristin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Who is available as another interview? Sounds like there are people commenting who want to get something out there. Can you provide someone who was actually there? Every time a teacher gets in trouble I wonder what we could do to make it less whispery and more concrete. How was Ms. Yamamoto threatening?

  17. Eel
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    “not ready for your voice” is this week’s “‘nevertheless, she persisted’

  18. More to the Story
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I am a parent of a student at Renaissance. I’m in no way part of a “marshaling of resources” by RPA. The school has no idea I’m posting here.

    Since people are asking for concrete details, here are two of many: Mika Yamamoto, after being suspended from her position, was found to be direct-messaging with her students during class-time. Yes, texting with 10-year-olds who were on school computers, trying to leverage support from them while on suspension. Additionally, over the weekend of her suspension, she invited her students TO HER OWN HOME for a birthday party — a birthday party for herself.

    As I said, these are just a couple of the egregious ethical violations she committed.

    There are so many legitimate cases of racial discrimination in our culture. This is not one of them. Please do not be conned by this woman.

  19. anonymous
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    More to the Story,

    You said that she was aggressive and bullying. When asked for details, you then said that she invited kids to a party.

  20. site admin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    From a parent with a child in Ms. Yamamoto’s classroom.

    “Make sure you read the comments on the webpage and comment back! The lies that are being said on there are ridiculous because I know for a fact she was in no way BULLYING her students! I will always be on your side Mika Yamamoto! My son adored you and all of these negative things being said I will not stand behind! Our family is here for you!”

  21. More to the Story
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    anonymous,

    I also said she violated numerous ethical rules. To me, these are the primary (and justified) reason for her dismissal). If you are comfortable with a teacher inviting 10-year-0lds to her home while she is on suspension, and going behind parents’ backs in communicating with their children, then feel free to take her side.

    I never said she bullied students. Her aggression and bullying was instead in the form of steady streams of texts to anyone who disagreed, as well as in person to numerous people I know.

    I’m 100% confident that the truth will come out eventually. I am only asking for people to dig more deeply into this situation before believing this interview.

  22. concerned_parent
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Stop for a second and take race out of the picture. Did she do her job? Did she behave ethically? Did she follow appropriate procedures when communicating with students? Did she have the permission of the parents to contact students on a personal level? Was she effective as a teacher (did her students show progress, or fall behind)? Did she contact parents regarding her concerns? Did she do what was best for the KIDS?

    This interview is missing answers to these key questions. It’s also missing any kind of substantiated facts, aside from the fact she was fired. Regardless of which side you support, isn’t that a problem for anyone else?

  23. One-sided
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s obvious Mark has an agenda for running this one-sided story with absolutely no attempt to contact anyone from the school, and that’s his right. This teacher and her lawyer are playing Mark like a fiddle, though, getting him to print this unsubstantiated story as they build their PR case over the lawsuit. You got played, Mark – just so you know that.
    But the comments from the parents in her class tell us everything we need to know. I’ll believe them a hundred times before I believe someone who is trying to profit from a lawsuit.

  24. Barbara
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    This woman is amazing. I know, because she literally opened her home to me and my young son to give us a safe place to live until I could regain my footing. We didn’t know each other previously and met quite by accident – yet she did not even hesitate. To take her out of the classroom and ultimately out of the school where she was, obviously, a much needed agent of change and person of support for kids in unsafe situations is a travesty. She will not and should not allow her voice to be silenced by those who truly have an oppressive agenda. And I will speak out with her and in support of her.

  25. Jaimie
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the comment from Mark Tucker 100%. Sadly the community that “was not ready yet” for Mika’s voice, is the community who needs teachers like Mika the most. This area is not diverse and is not accepting of any form of tolerance and it shows in the way that this situation was handled. Mika is a very gifted teacher and a wonderful human being and this school and community are at a loss.

  26. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    “amazing interview”

    “This interview was eye-opening”

    “I will always be on your side Mika”

    I am so happy Mika has friends and supporters. And I get that I am supposed to be outraged by the firing of your friend….

    But what did Mika say to the 5th graders and middle school students? Was the nature of her conversations outside the realm of what is considered appropriate for a 5th grade teacher? It sounds like her conversations were dipping into political, philosophical, and psychological territory (with 5th graders). Did the counselors at the school, (you know the people trained in psychology), agree or disagree with Mika’s tactics for change? Is Mika trained in psychology?

    Seriously, if you think this interview was “amazing” (Mark Tucker) and “eye-opening” (Jordan Miller), then help the rest of us understand what even happened…

  27. Beth Martin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I admit it I am a friend of Mika’s. I am on her side. I was also in her classroom. Mika is the kind of teacher I wish my kids had had when they were in fifth grade. Not that they had bad teachers they didn’t they had wonderful teachers, but Mika is so smart, thoughtful, an excellent writer and speaker and an awesome teacher. The comments made above by people who won’t leave their names and are saying that she is a bully and a bad teacher are simply outrageous. Mika’s kids absolutely LOVED her. Her classroom was a safe space for these kids many of whom are of color and most of whom have issues in their personal lives. She was not only a teacher to them but a surrogate parent. She never did anything to hurt these kids mentally or physically. She never did anything that I would call unethical. I would never have had a problem with any of my kids teachers contacting them directly. To me that shows her deep concern for them. She did not try to “leverage support” from her students. Her students were scared of never seeing her again. They initiated the contact to make sure she was o.k. and that she would be coming back to them. She just wanted what was best for them. The bullying that was said that was going on is also not true. Mika never set out to contact parents of the students or the administration. She was contacted by people who pretended to be her friend. Pretended to support her, to those people she spoke her mind. If you are a person who is feeling bullied by Mika than you are a person who did something horrible to her. She would never initiate hatred to anyone. She would never bully someone regardless of what they did to her but she would stand up for herself if a person were bullying her. The person who said the truth will come out I just have this to say, the truth has come out and it is in this article. I have been there and I know.

  28. Sara Knizhnik
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mika. I am Irene Tsirline’s aunt. You and I met at Borya and Katya Tsirline’s house in November 2013. I am so very sorry that this happened to you. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. I think you are so very courageous for speaking out. Far too many people want to ignore all that is happening now and are just hoping it will go away and not bother or affect them. That’s how we ended up with the Holocaust and so many other outrages against the human spirit. You speaking up inspires me to keep speaking up. We must support each other. There’s a long road ahead of us.

  29. Alphred
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    The court case:

    https://www.pacermonitor.com/public/case/20428930/Yamamoto_v_Renaissance_Public_School_Academy_et_al

  30. Mary
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    You all read the part where she went through special training developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center to teach these dangerous ideas about tolerance, right.? Why are you so quick to assume what she shared was somehow inappropriate?

  31. More to the Story
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Beth Martin,

    I respect your comments and your viewpoint, but I hope you understand that you cannot say that Ms. Yamamoto has not bullied or acted aggressively and unprofessionally toward people simply because you have not witnessed it.

    As a progressive liberal, I value dialogue, diplomacy, and respect above all else. And Ms. Yamamoto has shown no willingness to have dialogue with anyone, to respect others’ views, to listen to even common-sense concerns about her approach and tactics during this situation. I am aware of numerous occasions where she immediately and unequivocally branded a person an “enemy” or a “racist” or simply said “F— you” (yes, those exact words) simply because they did not back her methods of handling this situation.

    The worst irony of all is that Ms. Yamamoto is employing the same tactics and attitude as the new president. Unwillingness to listen, to compromise, to dialogue; the branding of any dissenters with the label of “enemy,” and profane name-calling — these have all been Ms. Yamamoto’s (as well as Donald Trump’s) modus operandi.

    The very fact that she has released this one-sided version of events into the public sphere represents an attempt to control our perceptions of the truth. And I agree with a previous poster that it is very irresponsible for Mark Maynard to allow himself to be manipulated in this way.

  32. concerned_parent
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    “Yes. I was fired for exercising my first amendment right to speak as a member of oppressed group to empower the oppressed.”

    Specifically, who was being oppressed in a 5th grade class? How did this come to involve the entire class? Is “Teaching Tolerance” part of the approve curriculum (which is what parents expect to be taught), or were these just lessons based upon personal ideology? Who approved of the lessons? Were parents made aware?

    Should teachers be allowed to teach whatever they want without oversight, and pass it off as expressing freedom of speech? Diversity and tolerance are important, I talk to my kids about it every day, because that’s my job as a parent. Just more questions that need answered.

  33. More to the Story
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Mary,

    What’s most troubling is that Ms. Yamamoto is allowed to level this very serious charge against a school without providing a single shred of concrete evidence.

    It’s very frightening that a person can make such accusations without any proof — and then be given a forum that reaches thousands of people who will cast judgement without even knowing all of the facts.

    If the court decides that Ms. Yamamoto was fired for prejudicial reasons, then by all means this should be put out into the world. But if — as is the case — the accusations are baseless, then she will have damaged a whole community simply to satisfy her own personal vendetta.

  34. Chris Fisher, former PS Teacher and parent of Renaissance student graduate
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    The turning point to this story was, when a male student went home to tell his story of feeling “uncomfortable” with the truth being spoken out loud about a newly elected president treating the female gender to feel as if they are less. The story escaped the walls protected by the administrators. The young black female student’s story could be contained and handled in house. I imagine the “Trump supporting parents” were appalled and called, insisting on reprimand. IF the male student had never shared his “fear of hearing truth spoken because his parents had taught him differently”, it would be safe to assume, nothing more would have happened. Voting day defensive hackles were up and ready to do battle. It’s a case of the administrator trying to appease the parents and make the problem go away, instead of ceasing the moment to teach tolerance to the parents and the male student. Oops!

    Additionally in regard to the many anonymous accusations of her behavior AFTER being suspended………..think about what you just said. She did not message students or invite them to her birthday party BEFOREHAND. (Oh the horror! Not a birthday party!) Idiotic to use her behavior after suspension for defensive reasons to let her go.

    We live in a time when we need to truly ask ourselves which side of history we choose to be on. Silent and oppressed? Or strong and involved?

    Renaissance is in a precarious position here and hopefully will choose in the best interest of its students and community and not with regard to a conservative agenda.

  35. Kristin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    You know what “More to the story” it is funny how you can sit behind your computer and talk about this woman with no regard for her feelings at all. First off and most importantly you seem to be the one doing the “bullying” on this public forum and hiding behind a baseless screen name. Who are you to judge someone and how they feel about being treated at a school where all the staff is white as well as all the classroom helpers?! Many of us including myself have children of a biracial background and unless YOU are of a minority then you have NO ROOM to judge or condemn her for feeling the way she did about this situation!! Then on top of all of it you want to sit here and try to defend a school or possibly yourself for how the situation was handled within the school.

    Oh and as for the inviting of students to her house for a birthday party, how do you think they would have been transported to the party?! THE PARENTS!! WHAT 10 YEAR OLD DRIVES?! So this tells me that the parents knew about the party and it was their decision to let a child go or not and I know that Mika would have invited the families as well. But yet if it is sports related it would have been okay because I know that recently the girls basketball team was at the coaches house having dinner and a movie. But for your information and being a parent of a child in that classroom, I never heard of ANY party at all and I keep in touch with Mika on a normal basis.

    Oh and you want to talk about ethics?! How ethical is it for someone on here to compare her to the monster we have as our nation’s leader right now!! For you to even bring that up shows me and I am sure a lot of others that you have no concept of racism or how an oppressed person feels. I am sure you are a privileged white individual that will never know how it feels to be racially abused, tormented or even the target of hatred.

    And as for you “concerned parent”, I have to say that I can’t believe the words that have came from you. You sit here and want to try to justify that a 5th grade student can’t feel oppressed?! DO YOU KNOW EVERY SINGLE 5th GRADE STUDENT IN HER CLASS? Do you have the right to even speak for anyone regarding oppression when you come from a privileged white class?

    The bottom line here is that the school handled this situation WRONG and before terminating a woman who spoke the truth about how she was feeling they should have heard her side of things. They should have applauded her for wanting to help her students beyond the normal studies and for educating them on the harshness of the world! Her stance on diversity and racism is what needs to be heard because like it or not it’s out there and we have to take a stand! We need more educators like Mika Yamamoto in every community.

    “Oppression can only survive through silence – Carmen de Monteflores

  36. truthnlightn
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    it kind of sound of sounds like she was trying to create a riot amongst the children instead of teaching them. I would be uncomfortable with my sons teachers getting too personal and inviting them to a birthday party in those circumstances. Did any children go? I would likely think that she would coerce my child during that period. No offense to Renaissance School, but what is such a wonderful woman who is the best teacher Ever, with a Masters Degree, doing at a charter school? She said she liked the progressive attitude…… that makes me think that previous jobs didn’t like HER progressive teaching. Why did she leave her other teaching positions? Voluntarily or not?

  37. jcp2
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I suppose that if my child were in elementary school and had a teacher that I did not know well communicate with him/her through social media while on suspension, I’d be a bit perturbed. Even more so if that suspended teacher had students over to his/her own residence while on suspension, regardless of whether my child was part of that visiting group or not. Fortunately, the schools that my children attended had fairly narrow guidelines regarding teacher/student contact after school hours, and permission slips were always involved.

  38. Disappointed
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Shame on you, Renaissance schools!

  39. Richard Nethers
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Yamamoto,

    I wanted to reach out to you as a member of the community to apologize for the way you’ve been treated. Your story is a prime example of why your voice is exactly what this community and this nation need. What the school did to you is underhanded and despicable.

    You mentioned in your interview that in your speech you spoke of income and it reminded me of something I found rather jarring a few years ago. For the longest time I had heard statistics regarding the income disparity between men and women and thought this must be a rare occasion that this happens because there have to be laws preventing such a thing. “It just can’t be, you can’t do that to people” I had thought. I couldn’t wrap my head around treating someone in such a way.

    That was until a friend of mine found out that her boss had hired a man with significantly less/no experience in their field for $20,000 more year in salary simply because he was a man. I was out raged! I was profoundly upset to the point of tears. The fact that someone could actually do something like that to someone with no repercussions was startling. Reading your story, I was once again outraged.

    Growing up an awkward gay boy in central Michigan, my heroes were/are women just like you. My closest friends are women just like you; strong, enlightened, independent, and principled. I was moved by the music of Nina Simone and the poetry of Maya Angelou and inspired by the bravery and leadership of world class sailor Ellen MacArther and the genius of Hedy Lamarr.

    People like your former principal represent an ever shrinking portion of our society, albeit increasingly boisterous. There is a place for you in this community and a desperate need for you in this community.

    Well Wishes and Best regards,

    Richard Nethers

  40. JW
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    My son was that white male student, he is 10 with high functioning autism. He got up to leave when she began speaking about rape and how men abuse women in this country. Trumps name was thrown in there several times during that message and there was much more. She is talking like my 10 year old that went to the office crying was oppressing her? The entire staff was instructed not to discuss politics that morning and she continued on with her own agenda in front of 10 year olds!!

  41. Beth Martin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    More to the story,
    First of all let me say that you must really be embarrassed by your comments or you would leave your name and not hide behind a moniker. Second YOU assume that I have not witnessed this so called “bullying” that you were privy to. The truth of the matter is that Mika has shared with me many if not all of the emails and texts that her fake friends and co workers have sent to her. I have heard and seen her type the F*** word but you know what? Its just a word. People have assigned a negativity to it that in itself is inappropriate. Its a word that means having sex, is sex dirty in your mind? It must be since you take such offense at a word. I feel sorry for your spouse. Are you frigid? Maybe if you “got” a little you wouldn’t be so uptight about a word that describes a natural and beautiful act.
    Now to get back to Mika. So we have established she uses this word. It doesn’t make her less of a teacher or less of a friend or less of a human. She has never to my knowledge used this word in front of her students as I said earlier I have been in her classroom not only at this deplorable school that fired her but also while working with her in another classroom setting. I will restate what I said earlier, she is not a bully, she only responds to bullies. Did I say she was weak? No I didn’t and she is not, she is one of the strongest people I know. How do I know that? Because she has made it through all this CRAP that you people have put her through and are still putting her through. To say that she has been unprofessional is ludicrous she has been nothing but professional to the administration that fired her while she was trying to be reinstated. It was when that failed and she knew that her students would be left behind that she started to stand up for herself in a more aggressive manner. Wouldn’t you? She was fired from a job she loved for no reason except that she gave a talk to the student body about being a Japanese woman who had lived through some rough times. Why did she talk about these things to these students? She was asked to talk to them about writing. What is the one thing we always hear about writing? Write what you know. She was trying to impress upon these children that if they were going to write good stories they should use their own pain and progression through life to do it.
    I do not believe that you are a progressive liberal. I believe that you do not know what that means. If you were a progressive liberal you would be outraged that Mika was fired for being a Japanese woman. You say that she did not want to compromise or listen to another viewpoint. These statements are asinine. If someone came up to you and said I want you to take two days off to feel safe and then return and talk to me about a situation and then you were escorted out of your place of work and then found out via an email that it was all lies and that you were in fact fired how compromising would you be? How much would you listen to the “other” side? The fact of the matter there is no other side when one is speaking about prejudice there is only the right side and that is the side of the offended.
    You have obviously never been in this type of position. I have. I know somewhat how it feels to be oppressed. Not nearly to the degree that Mika has been oppressed but I have an inkling. The outrage I feel toward you right now is making my heart pound. You are basically speaking out of your ass. The people who did not stand with Mika when this happened to her are racist, enemy, pigs.
    You say she didn’t try to dialogue when in fact she tried so hard to dialogue with the principal of the school the day all of this started that the principal promised her that she would have her come back in to her office the following Monday to dialogue more and figure this whole thing out. Mika was excited about that. Only to find out once she got home that she was not to come back at ALL and everything the principal had said to her was a lie. I think she has every right to be mad as hell.
    I think you know how she feels about Drumpf (that is his real name you know) and that is why you are comparing her to him. You know it will really upset and hurt her. You are trying to get under her skin. You are not a nice person. You are the one who is the bully.
    I think its hilarious that you talk about her “releasing her one sided view”. What other view is she supposed to have? Mark heard about her story and he interviewed her. She has a story to tell. Of course its one sided most stories we tell about our lives are. I am sure that once the court case is over if Mark wants to do another story with both sides presenting their sides she would be more than happy to do it. She did nothing to manipulate this man into writing this story. Its called a human interest story. Have you ever heard of that or are you as dumb as Drumpf?
    Your last comment to Mary is also pretty funny. Don’t you read the newspaper or listen to the news? Have you ever heard of O.J. Simpson? I do believe that most stories that are written for news publication come out to the public prior to the court case. That is why in some instances they have to change the venue because they can’t find an impartial jury. That is the way the world turns, right or wrong. As far as her not having evidence. Do you think she is going to share the evidence she has in an article? You are more of a fool than I thought you were.
    I am confident the courts will decide that she was fired out of prejudice.

  42. IPP
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Actually, she was manipulative of fifth grade students. She would text, email, communicate with 10 year olds at all hours of the night. Does this seem like appropriate behavior to you. She also asked students to be rebellious and use their voices. She did this instead of teach the curriculum. This has nothing to do with race.

  43. Yolanda Lyons
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Yamamoto has obviously upset the status quo at Renaissance, and that simply cannot be allowed. You teach what you are supposed to teach, but do not upset the status quo. Teaching includes other things than just reading out of a book and doing problems at the end of each chapter. Teachers interact with their students, or at least they should. Children learn from those interactions and go on to practice interaction on their own. Ms. Yamamoto apparently interacted with her students well enough that the students liked her, respected her, and missed her when she disappeared from their lives. I would assume that her asking the children to her home to help her celebrate her birthday was simply her showing her students that she was alright, but that she would not be back in their school again. Someone had to explain that to those children because the school administrators weren’t doing it. Good for you, Ms. Yamamoto! Keep on with the good fight; keep on until you find a school that not only is good for you, but is good for the students, too; and keep on doing what you do best – teaching children about the problems they will face in life, and how to deal with the diversity issues of those problems. The loss of your job is a difficulty for you, but the loss of you as a teacher is a critical issue for Renaissance.

  44. More to the Story
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Has Ms. Yamamoto given any proof of this alleged racial discrimination? No.

    The reason I’m posting anonymously is precisely because she is a bully, and I have no desire to be the target of her vitriol. Again, she is like Trump and will not listen to any criticism.

    Richard Nethers and Disappointed and all others who are accepting this interview at face value as the “whole truth,” I implore you to speak directly with the administration at RPA and hear the other side to the story. This is a wonderful school with a loving, compassionate, intelligent staff who really care about all children regardless of race, sexual orientation, or religion.

    If you were accused of something like this, I think this would be the least you would hope for — to learn more before passing judgement.

  45. Very Concered Sister
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    There is only ONE SIDE of the story posted here. The real fact is the children she was speaking to where very young, and that “Trump supporting white male student” that left the speech was my 10 year old brother with high functioning autism. WHO TRIED AND FAILED to peacefully leave a controversial talk which he did not agree with, after being scolded and physically grabbed by a teacher he “went home and complained”. AFTER TRYING TO LEAVE due to the mention of rape, and abuse with Trump’s name mentioned MANY times. Let me remind you these children are 10 YEARS OLD. What makes her think it is okay to preach to then about highly sensitive and controversial political issues at a SCHOOL?? I believe she was rightfully fired due to her inapropriate behavior, I am also very upset that she would feel “oppressed” due to my young brothers traumatic experience while trying to peacefully leave a talk that made him uncomfortable. If a teacher who is an adult is “oppressed and unsafe” because of a “trump supporting, white male student went home and complained” and THAT VERY SAME 10 YEAR OLD BOY is not “oppressed and unsafe” by being physically grabbed by a teacher and refused the right to leave a controversial speech that offended and upset him. There is obviously something very wrong with this story.

  46. Kristin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Beth Warren I salute you & how you said everything! We need more women like you in the world & like Mika!

    IPP she was in no way manipulating towards any of the 5th grade students! She was open and honest with them! She cared for those students! The school has email between students and I know that if there was any other communication Mika had permissions from the parents of the students! WHO THE HELL CARES AT WHAT TIME A PERSON EMAILS BACK!!! Yes the students stood up for her because their teacher, friend & a woman they admired was fired unjustly! I am proud of my son for using his VOICE at such a young age to stand up for what he believes in! HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET TO DICTATE WHEN A PERSON IS OLD ENOUGH TO USE THEIR VOICE!! And again you don’t know any knowledge of how racism works huh? Must be another white privileged individual….smh

  47. More to the Story
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Chris Fisher – the issue is that she was in contact with her students DURING her suspension. She was messaging them while they were in class, while they were being instructed by the substitute teacher. She was telling them they had to fight for her. She held a birthday party at her house also while she was suspended. By any rational measure, this is unethical and unprofessional behavior. I certainly wouldn’t expect to keep my job after that.

  48. Anonymous
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    There is no due process when a district decides to investigate a teacher. A district can conduct interviews, gather evidence and details against a teacher anyway they see fit. With a few pointed questions, it’s not hard for a principal to glean disparaging details from studnets about any teacher. Even with a union, it’s unlikely the investigation will be handled fairly by the administrator. Once at this point, they are merely building their legal case against you. Good teachers across the state have fallen to this practice, it’s a nasty way to save money. It’s not difficult spin any detail into an arbitrary and capricious act.

  49. Kristin
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Sorry meant Beth Martin in my previous response! But again Ms. Martin I admire your post & words of strength.

  50. Crystal
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I have a 5th grader at RPSA this year! Color/race was not the issue! Yamamoto CONSTANTLY harassed all the children about Trump. Told foreign kids they might as well pack their bags now, told another girl if her dad voted for Trump it meant he hated all women, and so much more. My child who loves to learn would complain that in ELA (a class that has nothing to do with history, government, or any of this) she was never taught. NOT ONE DAY! They were either given free time or another pre or post election Trump rant. She came home frequently telling us how “Mrs Yamamoto said…blah blah blah”. Not to mention her very public FB rants about Renaissance, Trump/the election, and the students. She was not professional at all!

    GOOD RIDDEN! It was 5th grade! Not appropriate. Not the place!

  51. J.
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    I pulled my kids out of this school because of bullying and nothing was done about it. This school needs a thorough investigation.

  52. JW
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I also wanted to mention that my son was walked to my car still visibly upset after school by the social worker and I was informed of the circumstances. I never asked for any action to be taken against the teacher. It is ridiculous how you can blame children for walking out when she was so graphic and then throwing in politics and labeling him a huge Trump supporter? Even if he is that is none of her concern and she should keep politics out of the curriculum. This makes my son out to be a monster, he is 10, he has high functioning autism and his best friend is African American. The truth will come out and the courts will prevail.

  53. Amazed at the stupidity
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Chris Fisher – as a teacher one would think you would know the difference between seizing and ceasing and choose the correct term in your biased prejudicial rant against an unknown white male student that you unfairly assume is from a right-wing family. How liberally open minded if you to assume his discomfort was politically based and not from him being 10 years old and uncomfortable hearing about rape and violence because he was not emotionally mature enough to process the disturbing content at this point.

    Beth Martin. Your ignorance regarding the defense of the use of the F word made no sense whatsoever. You resorted to a personal attack that was equally as classless as it was nonsensical. You seem to equate a happy personal life with being able to use the F word with ease and not viewing “F” as something dirty. Yet your hero replied to her detractors “F” you – clearly using the word as a dirty word. Or was she telling the detractors she wanted to F them, but not in a dirty way since that would imply she was unsatusfied, or maybe she is and this is her attempt to “get some” perhaps? Do you see how totally nonsensical your response was now? Does it look as ignorant when you read those words now? Stand up for your friend, but good Lord, read what you’re writing and if it sounds like a moron is talking, delete it.

  54. Posted February 13, 2017 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    This comment feed is hilarious and disappointing. As a college student it disgust me that parents are “afraid” of having their children included in a talk about oppression. They are in 5th grade, this is the time when children really start to develop their own opinions in the world and latch on to those of their parents. Clearly those commenting about how they think it’s “inappropriate” are scared of the truths within our society. Perhaps we also shouldn’t consider the fact that sex education is also taught in the 5th grade … scary. No- wake up and educate your children about the world around you! Lets think about this logically for all the parents who are freaking out about her “contacting” the students. First of all , if you are so worried about your children contacting someone maybe you should petition the school to get rid of the students access to the internet. Very scary things can be seen on this thing called Google and we wouldn’t want that. Second of all, most parents commenting clearly haven’t come to the same conclusion, but 5th GRADERS CAN’T DRIVE. No, the students didn’t fly on Aladins magic carpet to get to this said “birthday party” …. the parents DROVE THEM. Clearly, the parents that did drive their children to this said birthday party thought very differently about the teacher than the ones with the hateful comments. Thirdly, she was terminated it’s not like she was contacting her students while teaching. Even if it were true it seems as though the children really respond well to her if they feel they can A come talk to her about personal issues and B advocate for her return. Wow she just sounds like a terrible terrible teacher. Bottom line is if this school is found by the court as racially profiling their staff shame on them. Telling someone that the “community isn’t ready for her” is a clear indication that something a long those lines did occur. Lastly, for all the parents who are leaving hateful comments anonymously you should ask yourself who the real bully is? At least the teacher isn’t hiding behind a computer screen and letting her voice be heard.

  55. Maggie Wagner
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    Mika Yamamoto has enriched my life tremendously from the moment I met her. As a young girl with no mother, Mika took me under her wing and made me feel completely safe in her home at all times. She is a close family friend, and without her, my adolescence surely would have been significantly more painful, awkward, and lonely than it was. This woman is full of love, caring, open-mindedness, and understanding. She knows what it means to be made to feel like there’s something wrong with you for not fitting in with everybody’s expectations, much as I felt as a terribly anxious, queer girl growing up in the heart of Indiana. She knows what it’s like to feel different, and as a result, knows how to make those who are deemed “different” feel loved, safe, and perfectly normal. Mika, I love you, and always will. Just know all of the Wagners have your back!

  56. IPP
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Miranda, do you even know where this school is? Do you know anyone affiliated with this school. The birthday party…not many kids went because they felt uncomfortable. It is inappropriate for teachers to invite students over to their houses. I find it very unprofessional. I am assuming you don’t have children of your own. It is very naive to believe one side of the story as well. If you read the questioning it was obviously planned out…unless in the person conducting the interview had time to do research while she was being questioned. Be careful what you believe. You can’t believe everything you read. Surely you have learned that in college.

  57. Jaimie
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    IPP

    Why are you so personally invested in seeking out to “warn” people of how deceptive Mika is? She has a right to have her side of the story heard and the several of you that continue to comment on this thread claiming that she is in the wrong, are proving her point that this school is not open to any other belief that yours. You also cling to your opinion on how wrong a birthday party is but did not question the act of the principal who tried to silence Mika from reporting a child’s situation, a child that came to her asking for help because there were issues in her home life? This school cannot continue to silence voices because they differ from their own and they cannot keep giving in to or being fearful of parents who do not want to learn tolerance for anyone other than themselves. I would be very afraid to send my child to a school where the parents can push a principal to fire a teacher that she hired to promote change and tolerance. The same principal who did not want to report a child’s situation, a child that felt they were unsafe in their home. This school needs to be looked into further.

  58. Jacob Prell
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    To those reading this article,
    These are trying times, both nationally and locally. My child attends Renaissance and this article was brought to my attention from my sister all the way in Florida. As I am NEITHER a Republican OR a Democrat, please allow me to put an objective opinion on a very subjective subject such as this.
    This woman teaches 5th grade, not high school or college. Her JOB is to insure that her students are up to specs in literacy, math, science and the sort. Her job is NOT to bring her personal opinions of how the turn out of an election (that these children had no part in) is going to potentially effect the lives of these children. These are things that need to be addressed by the PARENTS first. If they deem not to do so it is overstepping the ethical boundaries of a teacher to do so WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT. Had a different teacher of the same ethnicity, sex and background come in and laid out a commentary based on a religious based agenda, she would’ve been treated the exact same way and disciplined just as harshly.
    THIS IS NOT LOS ANGELES, this is Mount Pleasant. A vastly conservative town with strong rural roots and a small but growing minority rate. (Think Green Acres with a state university campus attached…) One does not need a master’s degree to foresee that sending impressionable children home with only one side of a story or opinion that might not be shared by the parents of her students might cause animosity. Speaking on subjects concerning graphic or “sensitive” content such as homosexuality, domestic violence and/or political viewpoints to minors without prior consent of their legal guardian in ANY school public OR charter is not ethically acceptable behavior. I am ALL FOR freedom of speech, but with that freedom must come the right of those listening to not have to be trapped into listening to it if they do not choose to. There is no option like that in school, especially in a grade school.
    With no prior notice given to the parents, no option given to the students to leave and no opposing viewpoints given in contrast to allow them to attempt to form an educated opinion of their own, this smacks of subjectivity and manipulation and has NO PLACE in a state funded grade school. Leave protest politics on both sides to the media and the picket lines and stay focused on the items of importance, like making sure that the students are competent in math, science, spelling and the sort (which Michigan schools are SORELY lacking currently in a nationwide and global scale).

  59. concerned_parent
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Discrimination happens all the time, but just as often people manufacture stories to fit their personal agenda. So which is it here? The TRUTH is that none of us know for sure. Hence my previous questions, which were meant as legitimate inquiries, not point accusations. It’s disturbing how quickly we jump on a bandwagon, for or against, without first vetting the information. All I see here is blame, argument, and more discrimination. Instead we should be examining the situation, from all angles, and trying to fully understand what ACTUALLY happened.

    What’s sad, is that I ask real questions as a parent and this is the response: “And as for you “concerned parent”, I have to say that I can’t believe the words that have came from you. You sit here and want to try to justify that a 5th grade student can’t feel oppressed?! DO YOU KNOW EVERY SINGLE 5th GRADE STUDENT IN HER CLASS? Do you have the right to even speak for anyone regarding oppression when you come from a privileged white class?” – Kristin

    There was no indication that I think kids can’t feel oppressed, I’m asking if there was actually a specific situation which triggered something in the class? I ask from a position of knowledge; knowledge that there has never been an issue like this at RPSA in the 10+ years I’v had involvement with the school. So what changed? There has always been a diverse student body with involved parents. Were we missing something, or wasn’t there an issue until Mika created one?

    Ask questions, keep an open mind, search for verifiable FACTS, and focus on what should be the focus here: THE KIDS. This is what’s missing from the conversation.

    Side note…again: No, teachers should NOT contact students on a personal level outside of school. That’s just weird. Being a teacher doesn’t, by default, mean a person is trustworthy. Would anyone be OK with a random acquaintance emailing your kids late a night? Nope.

  60. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    In this interview, Mika’s **interpretion** of events, which led to her dismissal, can be read as an implication of a ten year old child, for his reaction to her speech. From this interview, it seems Mika gave zero consideration how her made-public-interpretation of events might cause undue difficulties for the ten year old.

    Emotional IQ?

  61. More to the Story
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Miranda Boulahanis — The problem is not that Ms. Yamamoto was simply “contacting” students or having them to her home for a birthday party (although that latter one is objectively weird in any situation). The problem is that she did these thing while on suspension, while she was not supposed to have contact with them. Add to this the fact that she was messaging with them while they were being taught by the substitute — essentially taking them away from their learning and classroom time. It’s highly unethical and clear grounds for dismissal.

    By many other accounts, Ms. Yamamoto, while a very passionate and energetic person, was simply not a good teacher. Sure, some students may have loved her, but that’s pretty natural for 10-year-olds. In fact her students were often seen wandering the hallways, unsupervised. There was little to no structure to her classroom. As many have pointed out on this forum, she was failing at the basic tasks of teaching the subjects she was hired to teach. This would also be grounds for dismissal.

    In short, Ms. Yamamoto provides zero evidence of racial discrimination in this interview. Please don’t get all of your information from this interview or this message board. If you would like to know the other side of the story, I encourage you to contact the school directly.

  62. More to the Story
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    IPP —

    People want to warn others of how deceptive Ms. Yamamoto because they see a school being unjustly accused of racial discrimination, and they are defending the school against these baseless allegations. This is a very serious charge, and therefore it’s vital that people know the entire situation before passing judgement.

    Ms. Yamamoto’s character absolutely matters, since she is the one leveling the accusations. This interview with her omits crucial information about her own actions — actions that warrant termination from her job and cast doubt on her accusations.

  63. JW
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    If she wants to be an activist then she should take up her cause outside the school. She was there to teach and she decided to go against the curriculum force her personal and political views on impressionable young children. She continued to harass and belittle children that had opposing views and make them feel ashamed of their own parents. It is not brave to do this to children! If you have a cause you believe in do it publicly, not in a classroom where children are forced to listen to you. I feel she is using this for personal gain in light of the political tension. She has misrepresented my son that she doesn’t even know and does not have as a student and has labeled the school as racist. If you spent one day in this school you would understand that they are no ordinary school, the principal loves her students and they often just run and hug her in the morning to say hi. The teachers are like family and they always put the children first, there are no “clicks”. This should be about protecting children and their education, the idea that she was discriminated against based on race is just ludicrous.

  64. Kaleena
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Tolerance does not need to be taught in schools. Kids already have got that shit down, they don’t see the differences that plague the adults. It is intolerance that is taught as they grow. Don’t believe me? Ever watch some intolerant whatever and had the thought ‘i just don’t remember the being this much intolerance when I was a kid.’? Ever hear the old folks say it? It’s not because they lived in a simpler time. It’s because WE ALL lived I simpler age! And actual age in human growing years where this intolerant shit wasn’t seen!

  65. One-sided
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    The most damning comments on this thread are from the parent and sister of the 10-year-old boy at the center of this issue. If we’re going to take the teacher at her word, then we need to take the family members at their word, too.

    It certainly sounds like this teacher bullied a 10-year-old autistic boy. And now SHE’S the one filing the civil rights lawsuit?

    If that’s remotely true, she has no business teaching in a classroom. Renaissance obviously made a mistake by hiring her in the first place, but good for them for getting her out of there.

  66. Lorry Lin Crawford
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I am offended
    As a mother, wife, student and FEMINIST I am offended. I am offended that you, a teacher, trusted to teach young children would put our children in a situation to further your political agenda. We are not at CMU or dealing with adults here. Let’s be clear, as a student as CMU if sexual violence is going to be addressed in class we get a warning a class or two ahead of time. Not only that we are told if this will bother us or trigger us in any way we can feel free to not to attend. We are not forced to participate. Also, at CMU teachers are not allowed to speak about their religious or political views. You violated the rights of our children. Let’s not talk about the children as though you have not fringed on their rights as Americans. They have a right not to be forced to stay in any situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. They have a right to go to school to be taught curriculum appropriate for their age. They have a right to go to school to learn not to be preached at and told what to believe. As a feminist I am disgusted that you chose an elementary school to push your activism on children. A real woman would know that there is a time and a place for everything. Activism in a school setting for children is not one of them. If the children decided on their own that they wanted to do activism as 5th graders that would be one thing but it would have to be student led not adult led. As a teacher it is your job to keep our children safe. Everyday parents trusted you to keep their children safe while you were priming them to support your political views by bashing a presidential candidate. I want my children to learn to think for themselves and develop their own views on politics and religion not to adopt yours. Renaissance is not just a school, it’s a family. My children hug their teachers and principal every day. The kids love each other and miss each other over the weekend. My nephew came home crying after your speech. This is not a racial problem… This is a teacher who stepped over her boundaries as a teacher. She hurt people because she decided to run a political agenda at an elementary school where she scared children and made them feel bad for their beliefs. To single out a white child who left when rape and violence was talked about. Come on, let’s be real, do you really think a 5th grade boy cares much about the wage gap? No! Why should he? He should be thinking like a child not an adult. You put children in an adult situation and you should be ashamed of yourself. Psychologically they are not equipped to deal with adult situations. I don’t want my children to know about rape until they can understand it. Politically speaking, I want my children to get to know politics before they come up with their own political beliefs. You were offended that your radical views from the inner city didn’t fit in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. I am offended that a speech that was supposed to be about writing became a Horror show for our Renaissance family. As a woman of color, I am offended that you would try to bring racial accusations into what is clearly a lapse in judgement on your part. You stepped over your bounds and you do not want to admit what you did wrong so you make this about race. Renaissance is a very diverse school with a loving faculty. This school goes above and beyond what a public school does. They take the time with your children so they learn at their speed. Extra help is provided for children who need it. You saying this is a racial issue is like me saying that you discriminated against that white boy who left the auditorium because he has a disability. My nephew, that white boy, who happens to have a disability is the basis of your complaint? Renaissance has been working with him for years and is a family to him. He has been taught to get up and leave if he feels uncomfortable. I am proud of him for leaving. He wasn’t the only child in that auditorium that wanted to leave, I know that for a fact. Do you have something against children with disabilities?

  67. Kathleen Balma
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I just want to point out some things that I have noticed in my long career as an educator in multiple states and countries: a lot of great teachers do things that might be considered unethical (such as over-disclosing personal information) or that fall into a legal grey area in some states (such as texting students) on a daily basis and no one cares, because that teacher is in the good graces of the administrators, but another teacher who is not so well-liked by administrators (because they don’t like her politics, her personality, her philosophy of education, her identity, because she doesn’t do her job well or even just because of pure professional jealousy) may get raked over the coals for doing those same things. In the end, when someone gets fired, it’s often complicated, and there’s always a political component (who liked who, who didn’t like who, etc.), and now this school will drag out any and everything Mika has ever said or done that might look bad out of context, because they’re afraid of legal repercussions. That said, as a teacher I do certain things to protect myself. I have colleagues who text their students about homework after school and no one cares. My students don’t even know my cell phone number. They never will. I have colleagues who disclose about their personal lives in a well-intentioned and often meaningful way during class discussions. I choose not to do that. I did, however, once give a student a ride home, even though I know that is a big no-no in this day and age. I did it because the student asked, and I knew him well enough to think this was in his best interest. I had too much compassion for him to make him walk for miles in the rain just so I could protect my own ass. I also knew that in the community where I work now, no one would care one way or the other; they would see it as an act of loving kindness and would not seek to punish me. In another state, in another town, in another school, I would have been fired and possibly been stripped of my teaching license and taken to criminal court. What I hear when I read Mika’s interview is a woman who is very passionate and well-loved by her students, but who also mades herself legally vulnerable in a few key ways. Meanwhile the leaders at this school were not able to manage their personnel effectively. As a result, they have lost a valuable employee and created a drama in their community, and Mika is unemployed and heartbroken. With solid school leadership, you don’t usually end up with a mess like this.

  68. One-sided
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a money grab by this teacher and her lawyer – and nothing else. They’re the ones who brought this story to Mark to get it out.

    This is all about the money. And nothing else. If this teacher is being played by her attorney, then Mika should realize that whether this lawsuit succeeds or fails, she’ll never get another teaching job. Ever. School districts have a habit of googling people before they hire them, and they don’t hire people who sue their employers.

  69. concerned_parent
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Kathleen,

    Isn’t it just a likely that personal politics don’t play a role in firing an employee? In my job, it’s clear cut, there are policies, procedures, and professional expectations. If employees disregard policies, bypass procedures, and/or neglect to meet the expectations of their job, they are terminated. I’ve found this to be much more common; while I do agree that personality clashes do occasionally come into play.

    You make good points here. In my opinion though, ethics should be more clear cut when it comes to an elementary school. There can’t be a “legal gray area” regardless of who you are. Parents trust that these things are true, otherwise how could we be comfortable leaving our kids at school. The appropriateness of texts and emails depends on content and context. Communication regarding homework is appropriate; communication on a personal level is not (without parental knowledge and consent).

    The issue that needs examining is whether or not Mika was performing her job ethically and up to the expected standards. Were students showing progress? How did her topics of discussion affect ALL of the students? Someone previously mentioned that uncomfortable topics like sex ed are taught in schools; while this is true, parent are made aware and can opt out. This isn’t because they don’t want kids to know the “truth”, it’s because parents have the right to teach their kids how they see fit when it comes to such topics.

    I’m keeping an open mind, but struggling to see any racial component here. There is a distinct ideological one, but no real indication that any actions were taken based on race. I’m hoping someone can chime in and clarify (in a reasonable, rational, well informed way).

  70. William Rhodes
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m amazed at how many people are criticizing the teacher from behind anonymous handles, while many are supporting her and doing so without anonymity. Yes, there are some who fall outside these groups. But I’m seeing a general trend.

    When my son reaches that age, I PRAY that he has teachers like her. I hope he has teachers that speak out on matters of intolerance and hatred. I hope he has teachers that challenge him to think. Now, I would probably hate if he ended up with a conservative teacher who taught my son conservative ideas, but if it made him THINK, that would be enough.

    I’m sure there is another side to this story. I’m just glad that this side might be heard over the din that the school administrators will be able to put out.

  71. More to the Story
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    William Rhodes —

    I’ve mentioned earlier that the reason I am posting anonymously is because Ms. Yamamoto is a very aggressive person who has attacked and insulted people who are simply disagreeing with her tactics and approaches. I hope you can respect that.

    The administration went far beyond what I would have done had I been in their position in attempting to work with Ms. Yamamoto and to retain her as a teacher, but she steadfastly refused to listen to suggestions of slowing down, suggestions of simply coming up with a more thought-out plan for how to incorporate tolerance lessons. She responded — as many have noted on this thread — with aggression, hostility, and unprofessional, unethical behavior.

    Teaching tolerance is incredibly important, especially in the current political climate. No one is disputing this, and I guarantee that the RPSA staff and administration value tolerance and respect above all else. I experience this every time I engage with them.

    However, we should not mistake tolerance with pushing a political agenda, with an authority figure in a classroom telling children that they are “unsafe,” telling them that their teacher is “unsafe,” telling them that people who voted for Donald Trump are sexist, bigots, etc. These are the types of “tolerance lessons” Ms. Yamamoto was bringing to her classroom.

    RPSA is a very impressive, inclusive, caring, and safe environment, and I truly hope that people will reach out and speak with them about this issue rather than making judgments based on this interview.

  72. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I, for one, am waiting to make a final judgment until after the non-anonymous-hip-young-designers from California, take some time, away from their regularly scheduled negative yelp reviews of the burgers at Ann Arbor’s GlassHouse Brewery, and devote some of that time toward telling us the truth in this situation.

  73. concerned_parent
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    William Rhodes,

    I’ve asked many unanswered questions thus far, and you mention something that is still unanswered. What intolerance was occurring? Based on the information available, there is no clear indication that an incident had occurred which would require a teacher to speak out. Can you bring one to light? I’m sure it would enlighten the group here. I think we all agree that speaking out against discrimination and intolerance is essential, and that teachers should challenge students to think. But, to what extent? Where is the line of appropriateness when it comes to a 10 year old? How much personal opinion should be allowed in a classroom? As mentioned above, this is not a college course, it’s 5th grade. Ideologies and politics are topics better suited for older students, don’t you think?

  74. JW
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    William Rhodes, what if she was a conservative? Perhaps she had said Hillary was the root of all evil and had brought up the topic of abortion during a fifth grade writing speech? What if she belittled children that didn’t support Trump and and told them their parents were racist? Would you feel the same way because those could be the circumstances.

  75. Kathleen Balma
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    concerned_parent,

    Alas, in my experience, people who should be fired rarely are, and people who should be mildly reprimanded at most, awarded for their service at best, can become vulnerable to firing due to politics in the workplace. (There are, of course, exceptions, but usually it has more to do with how well liked you are.) “Should” thinking doesn’t help when it comes to workplace psychology; what should be rarely is, and there is no evaluation rubric in the world that can’t be used to favor or discriminate against someone. As long as a human being is the evaluator, the evaluation will contain a degree of bias, which is why it’s naive for anyone to casually proclaim that there was not an element of racial bias here. It’s practically impossible for there not to be an element of racial bias in any given situation, humans being what we are. That said, this is a pretty messy thing for a lot of reasons. I wouldn’t want to be on either end of it. I think what’s really sad is that while the adults involved are busy hashing out who is in the wrong and whether so-and-so should have done this and said that, the kids are just missing their teacher. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Mika’s politics, chances are good that those students would have been better served by having the same person teach them from August through May.

  76. a concerned human
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Did the nasty teacher make these delicate little snowflake children sad by telling them that oppression exists? How will they ever recover? What they have suffered, no doubt, is worse than anything human kind has ever known.

  77. Reality check
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    The students would have been better served by having the same teacher for the year? She had to send two kids home from her classroom crying for political statements about their parents, lashing out at students that didn’t follow her beliefs, manipulating children into fighting for her to come back through instant messaging during school hours while suspended? She made children that didn’t follow her beliefs feel like outcasts and they were oppressed!! She used these children like puppets in her political game and now she is looking for personal gain by claiming racial bias. Who in there right mind would want their child to stay in that environment for the year??

  78. Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Well you silly dolts, of course thee are two sides to every story! But getting them out in the air, even one side at a time, is to be applauded not shamed. Thanks Mark. I live in Mt. Pleasant where this occurred and had a daughter attend Renaissance – yet this is the first I heard about this story, sadly.

  79. Kathleen Balma
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    I am using my real name to post comments because I’m not ashamed of what I’m saying. I notice that most people using real names are being civil, and people using pseudonyms are less so. I have no vested interested in siding for or against anyone here, but I do think there is a lot of overreacting and mild hysteria going on (Double and triple exclamation points are always a bad sign.), and I am more inclined to engage in conversation with people who don’t show up to the conversation wearing masks (or hoods, as the case may be) and abusing punctuation. I wish this teacher, and this school, a quick and fair resolution to what is obviously a painful situation.

  80. Justine
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Unless you’re a parent with a teaching degree then no, you don’t know how your child should actually be taught. 10 year olds aren’t stupid and are much smarter than you give them credit for. They understand injustice and, honestly, I wish that there were more teachers like Mika who aren’t afraid to teach this to children. If a person is going to tell a child something “uncomfortable” then I’m happy that it’s coming from a teacher who can explain how and why this issue has come to be and can help them make sense of it. That her students stood up for each other says that she did a fantastic job as a teacher.

    People keep saying that the boy who was uncomfortable has autism, so what? Autism is not a mental retardation and most people who have autism can function in society quite well. If he was upset learning that women earn less than men then what do you all think was the responsible reaction? If I found that out when I was 10 I’d have been upset too, especially since children are told that boys and girls are equal. However, the only reason that this is upsetting is because the school is teaching a white washed world view and the students aren’t adequately prepared for the truth and what’s actually out there.

    Finally, teachers are not robots. They aren’t meant to regurgitate words from a textbook and then have their students parrot that information back at them. They are meant to TEACH; that is, to inform and EDUCATE in an attempt to provide children with the skills that they’ll need for the rest of their lives. Part of teaching is getting children to constantly question the world around them as blindly following only serves to produce mindless drones.

  81. Shawn
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Very one-sided.

  82. Shelley Koop
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Unless some cowardly poster here is the principal or the curriculum coordinator, I would have to say the extent of your knowledge about Ms. Yamamoto’s suspension and firing is pretty limited, as is mine.

    Whatever the case, what I’m reading here looks like a lot of rumor-mongering, which is never a good thing, and shows an exceedingly reckless disregard for a teacher’s professional reputation.

    It also appears to me–from these postings alone– that a lot of kids coming out of Renaissance Public School Academy will be leaving there with little resilience, a poor understanding of civility or social justice, and will be wholly unprepared to deal with the world as it actually exists. I have zero interested in knowing adults like that, and can’t imagine it’s any more charming in a child.

    How sad to limit your child’s future that way.

  83. Debbie
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    There are several issues here….First of all, taking up for a student who is being teased, bullied, etc is always the right thing to do 2)This teacher should’ve kept her job 3) Speeches for or against a politician have no place in the classroom, nor does social indoctrination, just teach the subject without opinion

  84. The Morning Sun
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    http://www.themorningsun.com/general-news/20170214/former-renaissance-teacher-files-federal-lawsuit

  85. Josh_the_concerned_parent
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    It still seems that we’re missing that fact that there is no indication that there was a “trigger” incident which lead the teacher to speak out. I’ve asked this before and hope something comes to light. Were kids actually being discriminated against? Was there a bullying situation? If so, yes, speaking out is the right thing to do; there are procedures to this. Procedures which protect the kids, teachers, and students. If nothing specific happened, other than the election, why was the teacher repeatedly discussing these topics with students (as it isn’t part of the curriculum)?

    Teaching this type of content is essential, and is something that many parents take on daily. For teachers to tackle the task there must be some sort of structure, otherwise it’s a chaotic mess of mixed ideologies. How would this help anyone?

    Justine, I agree that teaching is more than just textbooks. But, there has to be a line somewhere right? These are other people’s kids, my kids. Challenging ideas, within the curriculum seems appropriate. How about regularly teaching outside the curriculum? What about teaching based on personal opinions and ideals, not necessarily facts? Would this be a problem? What discussion of these topics overtook the student required learning and they fell behind?

    More questions, hoping for answers.

  86. More to the Story
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Shelley Koop and Kathleen Balma —

    One does not need to be the principal or the curriculum coordinator to know what occurred at RPSA. Many other teachers (as well as students and even parents) were direct witness to the actions of Ms. Yamamoto, and numerous parents and other adults were contacted (in many cases, badgered and bullied) by Ms. Yamamoto via text during this whole affair. The information I and others have posted is not gossip or rumor but actual fact.

    This information needs to be aired because the interview with Ms. Yamamoto is not an accurate or complete version of what happened. Her charges defame the school that my child attends — a school that has repeatedly shown itself to be a tolerant, respectful environment.

    I will also reiterate that anonymity on a message board like this does not mean anything with regard to the validity of our claims. Ms. Yamamoto is a volatile and aggressive person, and I have personally seen how she attacks those who disagree.

    As a minor aside, simply putting a name onto your post doesn’t prove that it is your actual name. So it’s kind of an odd argument to make.

  87. More to the Story
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Shelley Koop —

    How can you say, “a lot of kids coming out of Renaissance Public School Academy will be leaving there with little resilience, a poor understanding of civility or social justice, and will be wholly unprepared to deal with the world as it actually exists.”

    Have you been to Renaissance? Have you met the teachers? The principal? Any of the parents or students? Have you seen their lesson plans? Have you sat in on any classes?

    Please don’t make such irresponsible accusations without any evidence.

  88. T T
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    This is so inaccurate and one sided. It says nothing about what she actually said during that assembly and the before then. Also somewhat unrelated but when she left the new teacher realized how far behind her students were behind the other classes in the school if that says anything about her as a teacher. My siblings go here and this is story is so inaccurate.

  89. Laurie Hailer
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    When I read the article I was blown away by this woman’s apparent mistreatment. Then, I read the comments. This is so disturbing. It’s clear anyone not involved would be hard-pressed to determine the rights and wrongs in this situation. That said, ‘we’re not ready for your voice,’ hardly seems like a justifiable reason for termination.

    I’m surprised by how many people hide behind made up identities. For me, hiding behind names like ‘reality check’ and ‘concerned human’ basically nullify every point you are trying to make, even if I agree with you.

    Even a supporter seems to have called children ‘ delicate little snowflake children.’ That’s really part of the problem. That’s condescending and racist in my opinion. I understand the point the person was making, but talk like that is part of the problem. Please, don’t talk about children that way.

    Again, wow. I’m stuck by how poorly we approach problems in our society. We aren’t respectful of every person. We need to be respectful and respected, even when people do things or say things we think they shouldn’t. Very few people are all bad or all good. We need to respect people even when we disagree. It’s part of rising above. It part of going past knee-jerk reactions to thinking of the greater good.

    This woman sounds like she has her head and heart in the right place. Maybe being a 5th grade teacher isn’t the right job for her. Maybe a college professor or a lawyer or a writer. She was able to get students to open up about bullying and abuse. She’s inspirational.

  90. Harriet
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Inclusion is not a political view
    Inclusion speaks human rights

    For some, inequality feels so normal that the mere idea of equality…
    feels like oppression to them

    Thank you Mika for your voice, please, NEVER be silenced!
    You are not alone…

  91. Josh_the_concerned_parent
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Laurie,

    It’s important to realize, as mentioned in another comment, that the screen names really are irrelevant. The names, which can all be made up, have to real bearing on the relevancy of our input. Some of us are very close to this situation, and choose to enter the discussion to provide factual insight where it is lacking. Personally, I interested in gather information to better understand what happened. I have kids in this school, so this situation matters. What’s difficult is that many people are making judgments based on a mere fraction of the story. The more I learn, the more disturbing it all seems to be. Unfortunately, I’ve asked many questions seeking answers to help justify the actions of the teacher, but there have been no relevant facts presented to support the claims she is making. No one can define a incident where she needed to help the students. Can you? Proof exists which shows that this goes well beyond the speech she reference, well beyond acceptable (ethical) behavior for a teacher.

    I completely agree with you regarding the need to respect each other, and continue a rational mature dialogue. Let’s hope everyone else does too.

  92. Jaimie Sullivan
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    More to the Story

    You continuously “claim” that, “. Ms. Yamamoto is a volatile and aggressive person, and I have personally seen how she attacks those who disagree,” yet you are the one who is posting continuously after every response on this article attacking every person that has any inclination to side with her. This would mean to me that you are the one who is aggressively attacking her. And more than likely trying to cover up your own racially motivated comments by pointing the blame at her. You obviously have no fear of her or you would not being continuously responding to every comment on here demanding your own voice be heard. I know for one that if I felt a lawsuit was unjustifiably filed on me and I felt that I was in the right, I would NOT be continuously attacking her via computer behind a closed name. This is harassment. This website is NOT a courtroom and trying to tell people that they cannot use their brains and voice is proof that Ms. Yamamoto had a reason to feel “unsafe” and that more than likely the principal was giving in to your threats to make sure that she was “shut down”. You have something to fear and to hide or you would contact a newspaper with a rebuttal of the allegations, using your full name.

    While I was never in doubt that Ms. Yamamoto’s claims were very real, serious, and truthful, I am even more confident that she fired for racial discrimination by listening to all the backlash from the people behind fake names that obviously are in conjunction with the school. This principal should have been standing up for her choice to hire this woman to promote diversity, tolerance, and change, instead of cowering down to the demand that it was not needed in that school.

    This school also needs to be looked into regarding the protection of children. When a child comes to any member of the staff making claims that they are unsafe in their own home, that should have been reported immidiately. These children should always know that the school is a safe place at ALL times and they can always come to the staff to speak in confidence. As far as the 10 year old boy, Ms Yamamoto is not at fault for the adult that forced him into staying at a speech that the school asked Ms Yamamoto to present. The adult that should have been working with him following his IEP with the school, is at fault for that. Yet again, Ms Yamamoto is continuously blamed on this site by the family. Regaurdless of the contents of the speach, the fact that their child’s IEP was not followed is a HUGE concern and is the fault of the adult at the school that is employed to follow it.

    The school made a drastic move by firing Ms Yamamoto instead of dealing with the concerns that were brought to the plate. They made a correct move in firing a woman that is not going to lay down, roll over, and take it. I am confident that Ms. Yamamoto will prevail in her case but I am also hoping that this school will admit to and fix these flaws that they were purely willing to bury and cover up like they do not exist. This case is doing exactly what it should. It is shaking up Renasaince Public Academy and the parents and the community need to understand that if this school was living up to the standards it claims to promote, than no court case should have been nescessary. The children in the school are the most important and Renasaince School needs to step up to the plate.

  93. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Mika,

    In the interview Mark asked you for specific things you said in your speech. You seemed (to me) intentionally vague in your response. Several commenters asked for the specifics of the speech, but you did not respond. Other commenters said you spoke of rape, politics, Trump/ horror, and that you shared stories of domestic violence in a way which upset young children and you have not denied it.

    Why not clear some of these things up now, Mika?

  94. Laurie Hailer
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    to Josh_the_Concerned_Parent

    Your points are well taken. Yes, I am sorry that your community is experiencing this situation. Especially for the kids sake. People forget sometimes that kids will read what they are writing or hear about it at the kitchen table or on the school yard. It’s tough to have a school community arguing about these issues. I wish you all the best and hope this is resolved soon.

  95. JW
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Jaimie, any student that feels uncomfortable during an assembly is free to walk out at anytime with or without an IEP. I was told this the following day by Mrs. Bergman. There were several different things that occurred when my son walked out but I have only addressed the part concerning Mika. You have absolutely no knowledge of how his situation was handled concerning his IEP and the school has been amazing. I do find it disturbing how she spoke of my son in this interview as well, but I guess his rights are not as important. She made assumptions and accusations against him that were completely false. I do blame her for the content of her speech but I never even asked for an apology or even any action be taken against her. I just asked that my son not be placed in her class in the future. There were many things that occurred prior that were documented that ultimately ended in her being fired but you insist this is a racial issue with no evidence of your own to support that claim. I understand that she has friends that will support her at all costs no matter what really happened and I have a duty to protect my son in any way I can, including not using my full name. I will not subject him to her or her supporters ever again.

  96. concerned_parent
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Jaimie Sullivan,

    Do you have any connection to the school? Do have children that attend? Are you informed regarding the “rest of the story” that exists? These are not meant as aggressive questions. I ask, because there are many of us who have much more information than can be found online. Those of us connected to the situation, in one way or another, have a distinct interest in finding the truth and helping others understand the situation fully. Personally, my connection with the school is that I have children who attend. My concern stems from the need to know that my kids are in a place where they aren’t subjected to biased opinions and personal ideologies. There is a line between teaching students and preaching to students. Curriculum is in place for a reason.

    I’ll ask you the same question I’ve asked before; can you define an incident where Mika was helping a student who reported racial discrimination, or other bullying? Thus far, we’ve received no answer. Was she using instructional time to discuss politics? Was she teaching the curriculum? Did she disregard school policies and procedures? Were her students making progress, and keeping up with other classes at that grade level? Even though she had been trained in “teaching tolerance”, were those lessons approved?

    What about the rights of the students? The parents? Should teachers be allowed to talk about whatever they want in a classroom filled with 10 yr old kids?

    We need to keep asking questions, and hopefully we’ll get answers. The questions I’m asking can bring clarity to both sides. Simply jumping the bandwagon, either way, is worthless to the conversation.

  97. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Mika,

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume that 95% of your students *love* you. Despite contrary reports, let’s also assume, for the sake of argument that 99% of the audience of your speech did not find your speech inappropriate. Let’s also assume that your dismissal was unwarranted and unfair.

    Allowing for the above assumptions, I have one request: Please describe your decision process wherein you found it necessary to essentially publically identify (although you had the sense to stop short of offering his name online) the white, male, trump-supporting, ten year old student, who, in your expressed opinion, played an essential role in your dismissal, due to his, in your expressed opinion, failure to respond to your speech in a reasonable way… You have argued that we ought to be concerned for how your dismissal is affecting the students that love you. Please speak to the ways that your public outing of a 10 year old might have an effect on how he experiences and fits into his community of fellow students…..Certainly such considering entered your thought processs. No?

  98. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    *considerations

  99. potato
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    [Story from students perspective]

    I am a student of Mika Yamamotos class, and here’s how everything went down. So one Wednesday morning, she left the classroom for a “meeting” It was around 10:00, and since she was gone, the technology teacher (Lets call her P) was your substitute teacher. P just did the same thing as Mika did. Anyways, that day Mika went missing. Everyone was scratching there heads, trying to know where she went, but NOTHING was found out. Two days Later, the principal, Mrs. Bergman came into to talk to us and tell us what happened to her.

    She said that Mika was no coming back because of “safety reasons.” After that, everyone in my (Mika’s) class just went crazy. They were like “WHERE IS OUR TEACHER?!?!?!?” And, “BRING HER BACK!” The principal said once she found out something else, we would be told. The following week on Monday, the principal came to talk to us again. She said that Mika would not be back until further notice, and if the prinicpal found anything else out, she would tell us. Then Friday she was fired, but no one ever knew. Then, the week after that, on Monday, the principal came in and told us. “Miss Yamamoto is not coming back due to confidentiality.” People started crying, and yeah.

    The the principal said that we would be having a pizza party, to make us feel better… And yeah, that all that happened

  100. Juan Sanchez
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to Shit That Never Happened Land

  101. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    You say potato, I say potato

    You say tomato, I say tomato

    (Isn’t it fun to manipulate words?)

  102. Jean Henry
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    I was outed in 5th grade as a Carter supporter (v Ford) in class by my teacher, who then led the class in ridicule of my beliefs. This ridicule followed me to 6th grade, where I was again outed by the teacher as a democrat. (at 10…). When Ford lost, I was pulled aside at the start of class and told not to gloat. I was not about to gloat. It sucked.

    In Ann Arbor, election night I held a fundraiser at my house. 5th grade boys wrote and put on a play: the 4th debate. My 10 year old son, dressed as Hillary Clinton was booed loudly by a grown man standing in line to buy his tacos. He clearly felt very good about himself. That also sucked.

    I don’t know what happened in Mika’s class but political beliefs really should not be part of anyone’s public school curriculum. You can teach the values of compassion and cross cultural understanding in a non-partisan way. These are human values. I hope any teacher would treat Trump supporting students exactly the same as they treat all their other students, because that’s a great way to teach compassion.

  103. Mika Yamamoto
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Frosted Flake,

    Potato is a fifth-grade student who shared his experience. He stated only facts, he did not attack anyone, he did not manipulate words. Your response to him was hostile and disrespectful. I appreciate that you do not agree with me, and I respect your rights to voice your opinion. However, when you demean a student for using his voice, I must call you out. This is no way to speak to anyone, much less children.

    Jean Henry, I am truly sorry for your experiences as a student. It broke my heart to read it. Thank you for sharing your story for it must not be an easy one to share.

    I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to comment on both sides. I know it is time that you give to think about the question of free speech, education, equality, and children. While it is a messy conversation, it is a conversation that will eventually lead to a better world, and I am grateful for your participation.

  104. site admin
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    MLive is on the story:

    http://www.mlive.com/news/bay-city/index.ssf/2017/02/former_teacher_sues_michigan_c.html

  105. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Mika,

    Don’t assume my intention behind referencing “let’s call the whole thing off”. Don’t mis-interpret my meaning in such an ungenerous way and deliver your misinterpretations to a child. What the hell are you doing?

    In my previous post I said I was willing to assume that 99% of the students in your class loved having you as a teacher. That stands. But who cares?

    Whether or not your students love and miss you is not the issue.

    In this thread a lot of people have asked for your responses to very basic questions so that we can form any sort of judgment whatsoever. Mark’s interview felt very incomplete. To be honest, it felt purposefully incomplete…. After reading the interview you gave, I found myself wondering: Why do I suddenly have knowledge of a 5th grade teachers political affinities? Why do I suddenly have knowledge of a 5th grade student’s race, gender, and political leanings? Why do I suddenly have knowledge of a 5th grade student’s reaction to a speech given to him by a teacher I don’t know? Why have I been asked to accept the idea that 5th graders reaction to a speech is unreasonable when I don’t even know the content of the speech he reacted to. Why do I have access, on the internet, as to how a child feels about losing his dismissed teacher?

    I am not harboring or expressing a hostility toward a child. Are you fucking crazy? How dare you say that? I, along with others in this thread, have been trying to get you to answer basic questions. Your silence over these few days is weird. Your vagueness in your interview, which prompted the questions, was weird.

    Nobody is trying to prevent you from using your voice. Answer the questions. Speak the fuck up.

  106. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Ugh.

    For the record, Mika’s last post, which addressed Jean Henry’s concerns, originally included Mika’s claim ( and I am paraphrasing) that she “never identified president Trump in her interactions with the children”.

    Mika’s comment was edited.

  107. BFL
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there was as much “race” involved here as there was her mindset. It seems to have happened because she wasn’t teaching the kids exactly what the conservative parents wanted her to teach them. Mainly that there are things and people in the world that aren’t just like they are in their small town in central Michigan. I guess that the local juries would probably be more willing to side with a “white” person than to an outsider. But I heard no racial slurs or anything like that like I’d expected.

    Though parts have been quoted and paraphrased throughout the article and comments, I don’t know EXACTLY what she said that got everybody’s panties in a wad. Or how they know that the kid left because of something she was saying.

  108. Facts don't require any spin
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    My son was a student of Ms. Yamamoto. Fortunately, he was not present on November 9, 2016, the day she gave the speech that she maintains is the reason behind her termination from Renaissance. From the description in the news articles and interview with Ms. Yamamoto, it sounds as if it was a speech that invoked feelings of fear and horror for some of the young students present. By her own admission, her comments forced a child to leave the gymnasium. Some have said in tears.

    As parents, we send our children to school and entrust their teachers to do their best to treat our children with respect, kindness, and the assurance that the teachers will make every attempt to keep our children safe. Further, no reasonable parent would argue that topics such as race, inequality, gender, discrimination, and violence don’t belong in the curriculum. These are very important issues that even the very young can learn about and benefit from discussing. Reasonable parents would strongly argue, however, that such issues must be discussed at an age appropriate level.

    While others may have had a different experience with her as a teacher, it is my personal experience that Ms. Yamamoto appeared to be serving her own self -serving agenda and had very little concern for some of the children who were placed in her care. In fact she seemed to be violating the very principles she appears to be so passionate about.
    Ms. Yamamoto had commented (before she removed her statement in the comment section in the Maynard interview) that she never identified President Trump in the interactions with the children. This may have been true for her speech but it was certainly not true in regards to her conduct in the class room.

    My son, probably like many other children, was not immune to contentiousness of the past election. He only needed to be present in the room with our TV on or the radio playing to hear some sort of negative political add. He should have been immune to such topics inside his own fifth grade classroom though.

    On one occasion, I distinctly recall my son coming home and telling me that it was his belief that his teacher didn’t like him. Surprised, I asked him why he thought that was. He stated the election had been coming up in Ms. Yamamoto’s class and he spoke out, saying he didn’t like either of the candidates. Ms. Yamamoto admonished sharply, telling him that Donald Trump was bad and that Hillary Clinton was good. I had explained to my son everyone was entitled to their own opinion and that the teacher was probably just sharing hers. I brushed off the teacher’s comments.

    As time went on, though, I began to hear more questionable discussions and comments regarding Ms. Yamamoto and her classroom. My child described the class as being a complete free for all. The children were several weeks in to a project with no instruction by the teacher. My son said many of the students sat there unsure of what to do. While some kids enjoyed the lack of instruction because they were not expected to do anything, other students were frustrated and confused. According to him, two children built a fort in the class and looked up whatever they wanted on the chrome books without any intervention for several weeks. In another instance, my child’s class was read a book by Ms. Yamamoto that had not been a part of the approved curriculum. Afterwards, a conversation was sparked in the classroom that involved graphic anatomical details. Details that did not belong anywhere in a conversation with ten year old children. The conversation left my son confused and upset.

    The final occurrence involving Ms. Yamamoto was of a more serious nature. It directly impacted my child’s safety. An incident that I could not simply brush off. Ms. Yamamoto failed to protect my child. Initially, I was unsure, but as I read some of the above comments, I am now certain that this was most likely intentional on her part. The details I choose not to share at the moment, but unfortunately may surface in the discovery phase of this wretched lawsuit.

    In short, schools and the teachers within owe a duty of care to children to protect them from any foreseeable harm. Schools also have the authority to choose to control the message and curriculum inside the classroom as it relates to free speech. As such, when a teacher fails to follow the guidelines established by the school, the school should maintain the absolute authority to terminate them.

    It is truly unfortunate Renaissance and Principal Bergman are facing these unsubstantiated allegations. The staff at Renaissance are exceptional and go out of their way to make all children feel safe, loved, and valued. Principal Bergman and the other teachers display the kindness, respect, and sensitivity that Ms. Yamamoto only likes to talk or write about, not act on.

    Maybe Ms. Yamamoto was fired for her job performance and not her freedom of speech. But what can you do when someone likes to play with words?

  109. Janneke Agustin
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    As a an educator who values the role of teachers in the world, I commend Mika Yammamoto for speaking up and sharing her side of the story despite the oppression and suffering she had recently endured. If I had not read the ‘nameless’ comments here, I definitely would ask for ‘the other side of the story’. But, that other side had obviously been opened ‘like a can of worms’ by those nameless folks who are afraid of being bullied while bullying others, with “are you even connected to this school?” or “you don’t know anything about what happened” response to commenters who see the rationality of Ms. Yammamoto’s story.

    Also to say, this is the world we live in now, and teachers who open our eyes to truths while continuing to guide us are very much needed everywhere.

    P.S. No rebuttals please. I may not be part of the jury, but the truth is already obvious in this article and comments thread. Whatever way it goes for this case – most people who have read this would know that this is about race, discrimination and oppression. #ThisIs2017

  110. Keng Vang
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Keep poltics out of your class. Unless you’re teaching social studies or health class, be as unbiased as much you can. Not letting students opt of your your speech just gave them a reason to fire you. It’s a private academy right? they don’t have standards like public schools.

  111. NL Chastain
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Are the kids 10, middle schoolers, or fifth graders who have catapulted into middle school?

  112. Asian Female
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Thank you Mika Yamamoto!! You are brave and you are our (Asian) hero……….
    The fact that schools are not involved politically makes our children “dumb” to politics and “victims” of oppression!!! THINKING SKILLS need to be expanded!!! No more “one size fits all” testing!!
    You were racially discriminated, literally!! “Our community is not ready for you!” Where was your union representatives? They should have been defending you and report the school to the Office of Civil Rights to further investigate. This certainly warrant a thorough investigation into the administration up to the superintendent of that school!! The state of Michigan should also be involved in this, in resolving the matter!!
    This is exactly why we need to better educate our educators, especially our ADMINISTRATION as leaders because they just want to keep their jobs!! They are afraid about EDUCATING THEIR STUDENTS!! Students need to be guided/educated/taught how to THINK and have RESPECT!!
    It will get even worse as we have our government being governed by a racist spreading hate and racist feelings!! He got elected on that platform!! So I know it was appropriate for Mika to speak up because she made students who were bullied feel comfortable with her to come out of “hiding” and spoke to her about their problems!! She should be given A MEDAL for what she did!!We need advocates like her!!
    I am so very sorry about this Mika Yamamoto, however, this happens a lot in other States, in my state specifically, as I knew it happened to me, but it’s done in a more subtle way!! Which make things more difficult!! Just like this principal, who use, “relax at home” baloney. they were trying to figure out how to let you go………the UNION should have stepped in!!
    Thank you for sharing this Mark!!

  113. Asian Female
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Those who feel and think that Mika Yamamoto is in the wrong,

    I read your notes, which made me think that you are one of the community members, who don’t have any cultural competency. And you are also oppressing Mika’s freedom of speech. Yes, it’s a school, however, she was asked to speak and she does have the freedom to speak.

    I feel that your comments showed me that you feel more privilege than other people, thus oppressing others, and justifying that!! I hope that your children will know better and act in a more considerate and compassionate way than you. I truly feel sad for your children that you don’t feel comfortable to give your children freedom to do great things at school!! They should not be bullies!!

    Children are bringing to school what they learned at home! I have seen students really mentally, verbally, and sometimes physically torturing other children. My conclusion for children like that is how people act and what they see at home is internalized, then acted out at school. It seemed that students, who have been oppressed, intimidated, bullied, and silenced, came out to share with Mika and that is actually a great thing because these BEHAVIORS CAN BE REMEDIED!!!

    You should be thankful that Mika “opened up a can of worms.” Discussions can begin to make the school safe for those who are oppressed and bullying needs to go away!!! The bullies will learn to respect others, even if they don’t agree with each other all the time!!! When children who bully others grow up they will become domestic abuse adults!!! Perhaps, you are either abusers or a domestic abuse victims!!

    Think about it and go deep into your hearts. I know that each of you do have a heart but is it hurting? Do you need anything to help reduce that hurt? I don’t need your answers because only YOU can fix this.

    Mika Yamamoto is advocating for those who have been bullied for a long time due to their skin color or their socio-economic status!!

  114. Asian Female
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    BFL, I am with you and I don’t know why that child left the room. Perhaps, to use the bathroom? Did anybody ask that child? Why do the administrators “ASSumed” that the child left because he/she couldn’t stand the speech!?!? Apparently, the child was never asked so that makes me think that students’ opinion/voice doesn’t matter and that is a critical mistake on the part of the school and its curriculum, in terms of ethics!!

  115. concerned_parent
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    FYI…this is not a union environment. These are “At Will” employees. Termination can be for ANY lawful reason, without warning, at any time. This is why the case is specific in language, because there were MANY reasons for termination, but she’s chosen to make up this ONE reason to bring suit.

    Again…”Asian Female” & “Janneke Agustin” can you add anything factual and relevant to this conversation. This is a sincere question. We are all looking for answers and clarification. Many people have provided real experiences pertaining to this case. Can you? Was there bullying in the classroom? No one has said so thus far? Mika? Anyone? Were conversations initiated by students, or was Mika “preaching” during instructional time? This isn’t a way to bully via a nameless comment, we’re just interested in ensuring that ALL the fact are brought to light. This isn’t as simple as the interview makes it sound.

    So, what we need is elementary school teachers who prioritize discussion of personal ideology over curriculum? That’s simply ridiculous. A school supported, opt in, program which teaches tolerance would be great. But, teachers can’t just implement whatever they want, whenever they want. Right? How would that be beneficial to anyone?

  116. Asian Female
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Keng Vang,

    That is the status quo, “keep politics out of your class!” This has to change because we have political representatives who are deciding on what we need to teach, while they have not been in a classroom as an educator.

    Would you go to a heart surgeon who have experience in kidney surgery? Or even worst, not even have any surgical experiences!!!!

    Our students will be living in many different political communities and it’s vital that we help them understand the political processes so they can, in turn, defend themselves and become involved and productive citizens with problem solving thinking skills!!!

    Private/charter schools, should be held accountable, in the same way as public schools, since they are taking money from taxpayers and the communities!!! And that is PUBLIC FUNDS!!!

  117. concerned_parent
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Asian Female,

    Let’s be clear, there was NO apparent bullying that was going on in the class. This wasn’t a case where Mika was protecting students and the administration didn’t back her. There was no issue. Can you define one? Specifically? Or, are you just assuming this was the case? Please share; this is a question that stands unanswered.

    Freedom of speech doesn’t include freedom from consequences. If a teacher, of any race, were to teach religion rather than the curriculum, would that be Ok?

  118. concerned_parent
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    …No one is saying keep politics out of schools. Teaching the political process is not the same as preaching personal political views. No, you can’t gather other peoples kids in a room and tell them whatever you want.

  119. Gryndylow
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Communication is based on personal perspective. Tolerance and intolerance are also based on personal perspective and experience. When presented with “difficult” information, your perception of the information will have a profound affect on how you take that information in. If you view that information as contradictory to your belief system, you are going to find ways and justification to argue against it. If you view the information as affirmation of your own perspective and experience, you will find ways to argue for its support. Both sides may get engorged in their own evidence-finding in an effort to win support.

    There are a group of people that believe that teachers should only teach to the academic subjects and not discuss their personal beliefs. There are also various shades of acceptability toward teachers sharing their opinions and thoughts. There are, in addition, varying degrees of opinion of appropriateness regarding age/grade level for exposure to certain subject matter in discussion.

    Just to make this a little more clear, I am one for speaking frank and openly with my own children. Many parents choose to either be uncomfortable with talking with their children about certain topics, or just make a parental choice to not discuss those topics. To add this this, each child is at a different level of maturity to handle certain information.

    My point? That your personal opinion on all of this greatly dictates how you perceive some of the details of this story. For me, I welcome frank and open discussion by teachers with my children, even on uncomfortable topics, if done in an appropriate manner. To me, a teacher who can make a more profound connection with their students on a personal level, can have a greater impact on their academic, as well as social growth.

    But, I can also see that not everyone shares that same opinion.

    First, there are some things in this story that I am confused about, and which the comments are so biased one way or another, that I cannot be clear.

    My understanding is that this assembly, or whatever it was, that took place was already pre-planned. Ms. Yamamoto was to speak from the perspective of an author, and the focus of her discussion was supposed to be about authors using personal stories and experience to use as a tool for writing. specifically to the genre of horror. What is unclear by the interview, is whether this was discussed or pre-planned to what detail the discussion would go. It seems like the subject of horror would definitely be one that would bring about some uncomfortable topics, and this surely would have been known prior to the assembly. If it was, did Ms. Yamamoto speak more frank than what was expected? She did state she spoke of domestic violence…did she actually use words like “rape”? Or is this a perceived affirmation after the fact by those that had an issue with the topic and speech? I don’t know, this is why I am asking. If this was a pre-arranged discussion, I would think those planning it along with the teacher would have had prior knowledge to what she was going to share in her speech on the topic of writing horror and where her stories come from. So that part of the equation raises a dozen other questions.

    However, what seems to have happened off-agenda, is that she chose to add some perspective into the speech that was centered around the election.That it felt appropriate to say something regarding her experiences that she based her writing on, and what had been points of discussion throughout the election.

    So, here are my other questions….
    What prior knowledge did the administration and teaching staff have of this speech and its topics and language that would be used?
    What previous incidences occurred prior to this speech, and, if there were any, what was done about them?
    What is the school policy on teacher-student communication after school? Are there WRITTEN policies in place regarding email or text communication? (or other connections)

    From the perspective of Ms. Yamamoto. and other teachers that speak out….
    Was there due process?
    Was anything brought to her attention PRIOR to this incident that there was something she was doing or not doing that needed to be rectified?
    Were administrators honest and frank in their opposition to her choices?
    Was she given an opportunity to discuss the situation?

    It may be that Ms. Yamamoto spoke too frankly and used words that many might deem inappropriate for the age of the audience. It may also be that your perception of what she said comes from your own place in the world as well. For that, I cannot answer, as I did not witness it first hand. My guess is that, whichever side you fall on those issues, that both recollections are now engorged in self-actualization and perspective.

    The point of this story is what led up to her dismissal, and ONLY that can be taken into account. If she was behaving in an inappropriate manner, than it is the administrator’s job to provide counsel and warning of this behavior. This is what is missed by so many of the comments. If there were problems with her classroom management or work toward students’ academic growth, as some mentioned above, then there should have been a series of events prior to the dismissal. If parents were unhappy with her performance as a teacher, there should have been complaints made, first to the teacher to attempt to resolve it, and then with the principal. This would have resulted in discussions with the teacher and a record or history of problems. There is no evidence that this happened. That does not mean that it didn’t, but it is not offered here.

    There is other information in the story that I want to know more about. I know that this is an interview and not one that is giving different sides, so I am definitely interested in hearing both sides. Why was the administrator not allowing the teacher to report a suspected case of abuse? Teachers and administrators are mandated reporters.

    It seems to me that the administrator(s) did not handle this situation appropriately, and that this should be taken into account. Regardless of your opinion of the outspokenness of the teacher, the administrator did not do their job (at least by the account in this article). They were not upfront with the teacher on the issues, they did not use language that made it clear to her what was happening and why. They used language (“the community is not ready for your voice”) that implies that there is a bias. IF the administrator had a problem with what was said at the speech, they should have just laid out exactly what she said, what was wrong with what she said, asked for a response or made a plan of action, wrote up a disciplinary form, or something. What seems to have happened instead was that there was never any mention to this teacher that there was any issues with her teaching until she made one speech on a pre-arranged topic, and then went off course into politics. The speech opened up a can of worms that made it very uncomfortable for the administrator. EVEN IF PROBLEMS EXISTED prior to this incident they need to be addressed prior to the dismissal. Were they? If the teacher had been given warnings or disciplinary actions that she was too outspoken, or ineffective, or whatever, then there could be cause.

    However, the dismissal seems, by this account, elusive in nature, and, it seems, cowardly. If there is cause to terminate, then why be elusive? Why use words like “YOUR voice”?

    I would like to know more from people who have more information, but are not bias by perspective. This may be impossible. I can certainly empathize with the family of an autistic child. Having a high-functioning autistic child myself though, I have learned that mine often has a highly-skewed perspective, even though she is also highly-gifted intellectually. I am not saying that I would not believe her (or him), but that I know my daughter well enough to know that I definitely need to hear multiple sides in certain situations.

    I find it very interesting that there are some parents that are speaking so vehemently against Ms. Yamamoto and others that are very much in support. It does sound parallel with the current political climate in the United States, and I expect that enters a great deal into this issue.

  120. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    What is MM.com’s policy for editing people’s public statements? In your posts I have noticed times when you changed a statement, but you, as far as I know, have always indicated to the reader that there was an edit. Do I need to re-read Mika’s interview everyday to check to see if Mika’s statements were changed? There is no edit function in the comments section of this blog and yet Mika’s statements mysteriously changed without mention ! Are you aware of the edit? I would like to know what your policy is regarding editing “public record”….

  121. IPP
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    People without correct information need to stop posting. You are creating theories that are impossible…

  122. IPP
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, it seems as though the questions and answers have changed…that is BS.

  123. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I did not mean to imply that I have noticed any edit-changes in the originally posted interview. Maybe there was a change, I don’t know… I only know, for certain, that there was definitely some editing done in a comment orinally posted under the name “Mika Yamamoto”.

  124. IPP
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    There were edit changes within the question and answer piece.

  125. site admin
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The interview has not been edited since it was originally posted. The one comment, however, has. The author of the comment in question wrote and requested that two sentences be cut. She did so immediately after posting it. This is not uncommon. Several people write in and ask that corrections be made to their comments.

  126. concerned_parent
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Gryndylow,

    I appreciate the open minded contribution to the discussion. It’s rare thus far. Your are correct, perspective defines our position. This is exactly why I’ve advocated that everyone that time to LEARN more about the situation; gather facts, and listen to other parts of the story. Let’s hope we’re moving in the right direction.

    My concern is for the kids, my kids, who attend this school. I want to ensure that the administration and teachers are all acting ethically, and in the best interest of the kids. I expect that I can trust the teachers to follow approved curriculum, thus that opinions don’t overshadow facts. The problem with allowing teachers to inject too much opinion, is that some people are “full of sh**”. I have no definitive political affiliations, and couldn’t care less about her race.

    I’ve drifted toward opposing Mika simply based on facts that have been presented in the community. The speech is really irrelevant. She spoke, some people didn’t like it, that happens. She had her freedom of speech. The REST of the story is why she lost her job, and it has nothing to do with race. This is an “at will” environment; there is no requirement for an action plan, or anything else prior to termination. There is documented insubordination, inappropriate contact with students, poor job performance in general, and total disregard for policy and procedure. Someone needs to present more facts supporting Mika’s claims, aside from generally stating that she should be commended for speaking out.

    Please keep in mind that this is a scripted interview meant specifically to report Mika’s account of events. This is not fact based reporting of events.

  127. Peter
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    She lost me when she said “children are an oppressed class” and “space making”… sounds like she was trying to implement a controversial curriculum and got fired for it. Now shes upset. I mean she identified one of her students as a “huge trump supporting white male student” from a K-12 school. Seriously?

    She admited to teaching outside the curriculum. This in and of itself is grounds for a suspension. And if you choose to continue then termination. You don’t get to teach agendas and you definitions of ethics inside a classroom, especially when it comes to a teaching the gray areas involving your personal definition of “tolerance” to the “white, male, trump supporter” in a K-12. Could she be any more of a stereotypical-racist hypocrite?

  128. Mickey Souza
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    To those of you who are asking for facts. Do the administrators and staff accurately represent the children? In this case, now that Mika is gone, are all the students caucasian?

    Bringing in staff and mentors that students can relate to; and show them the diversity of the people in their community is tantamount to a child’s development. That there are no people of color left in the school is a glaring statement.

  129. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    It is only “a glaring statement ” if a bunch of other facts fall into place.

    It is a glaring statement that people are inviting readers to arrive at a conclusion without facts on the table.

  130. concerned_parent
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Mickey,

    Does it really matter, and is it at all realistic? Isabella county is roughly 89% Caucasian. This particular school is relatively small. Statistically, having a staff / administration fully representative of the diversity in the student body is going to be a stretch. Of the 11% minority population, how many are qualified teachers? Given the size of the school, how many candidates from out of the area are likely to even apply at the school. There are a millions factors at play regarding the potential diversity of the staff. Are you implying that the lack of diversity in the staff hinders students ability to learn about tolerance and diversity? Don’t they live in the world, outside of school? Don’t they have parents & extended family? You may need to clarify your stance here…

    This school has great teachers who care. The school is growing because of that. Students are showing growth. Isn’t that what matters?

    FYI…there are actually other minority staff members.

  131. Erica
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of whether Mika should have been fired or not, this principal sounds like a whack job. “The community is not ready for your voice.” “People always asked me why I didn’t have a more diverse staff. When I hired you, I didn’t hire you because of that, I hired you for other reasons. But it happened! I made it happen! And I was so happy. But now I think I set you up, because the community wasn’t ready for you.” That’s just insulting. It seems like the principal now gets to decide what the community is or is not ready for.

    Out of curiosity, why isn’t anyone mad at the principal? I don’t live in this community but this is so unprofessional. Also when she brought up that a kid confessed she was being bullied and the principal never gave a talk on it even though she said she would. If my kid was bullied and bravely went to a teacher for help and nothing was done, I’d be so mad. I wouldn’t want my child to learn under a principal who won’t confront those issues. The principal also said “a huge Trump-supporting” male student had went home and complained about it. Isn’t it weird that the principal is labeling a student like that?

    The HR department said they would have a follow up meeting after her suspension but there was never a meeting and her employment was terminated. Whether or not Mika should have been fired that just screams suspicious and really, really unprofessional.

  132. concerned_parent
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Erica,

    Please be aware that the quotes from the article are not direct quotes from the principle, they are Mika’s recollection of the conversation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Second hand quotes can’t convey context, or intent. Or, they could be completely false all together. We’ll have to wait to hear directly from the school before any judgement can be made there.

    We also don’t know if any kids actually came forward and how it was addressed. As has been stated many times thus far, this interview provides a biased statement of events. It doesn’t even get close to covering the entire story. See the many unanswered questions from previous comments.

    From a credible source: Mika was offered a meeting with HR and vehemently refused.

  133. Lynne
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I am not entirely sure that teachers should not talk about politics and values in class. I can remember an African American teacher I had who had some negative views about white people or at least that is what I felt when we were reading and discussing James Baldwin’s _Go Tell it on the Mountain_. Thing is, from the perspective of where I am now, I have a better understanding of why a black woman in Detroit in the 80’s might have had some anger towards white people but also that I probably amplified it due to my own discomfort with the subject matter and my own racism.

    Anyways, one thing I find interesting is the parents’ reaction in this case. I went home and told my parents that I felt uncomfortable in that class and also that the teacher was unfair and racist against me. My folks told me that it was a good opportunity to learn how to deal with difficult people and told me to just do my best in the class and to try to listen to where this woman was coming from. Then we had a long discussion about how shitty white people had treated black people historically and how this woman certainly had come from a different place than my upper middle class white place. I cant say that I developed a lot of empathy for her at the time but later on, I was able to.

    So it begs the question. What is a good teacher? This teacher really was unfair to the white kids in the class but that experience gave me just a little taste of what minorities have to go through all the time. I consider it one of the most valuable of my educational experiences. That teacher challenged the shit out of me in terms of my privilege. And she helped me get a prospective of the literature we were reading that I wouldn’t have otherwise received. I might not have thought her a good teacher at the time but I do now, fwiw.

  134. Erica
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    concerned_parent,

    If nothing Mika herself says is credible then I feel the same could be said with whatever the principal says. By that logic, I guess it’s her word against the principal’s and the school can say and leave out whatever they want and take things out of context too. I think it’s a two-way street and I don’t think I would be able to trust what the school or the principal would have to say the same way Mika’s side may not be credible. In that case, it seems like now it’s just about who you trust more. I’m curious but if their stores don’t correlate who would you believe more?

    You said there is evidence of “documented insubordination, inappropriate contact with students, poor job performance in general, and total disregard for policy and procedure” according to who? The school? What is poor job performance based off of? Is that documented too or is that just from some of the comments made here in the Comments section? Because it seems like on the flip side there are other parents that thought she was a fantastic teacher. Anyway, I think it’s too early to jump the gun and pick a side.

    Also I’m curious, who is your credible source? I don’t think you can expect me to believe you without a name for the same reason.

  135. Cornelius Higganbotham III
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    tl;dr
    Renegade SJW teacher butts heads with stodgy administrators who got more than they bargained for when trying to fill their diversity quota. Everybody loses. She should probably be teaching in High School or college. It’s fifth grade for God’s sake.

    Oh, and to address the elephant in the room: When did ‘Japanese’ become ‘person of color’?

  136. KL
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    My understanding is that Ms. Yamamoto may have in fact been fired for being outspoken on touchy subjects such as domestic violence, rape, race, and oppression, but also because of her unconventional teaching style. This former thing I gather to be true based on the principal’s remarks on their community not “ready for her voice–” one just can’t deny the prejudice in that.

    However, dear Ms. Yamamoto, even as a parent, older sister, and woman, who shares just about every marker of your identity (minority, survivor, outspoken activist) I still don’t understand why you would exchange text messages with your student during school hours, if at all. These are 10 year olds, not college, or even high school students. Maybe you were comforting them because they missed you, or perhaps you reached out to them for your own self-serving purposes. To do so during school hours? We know better. Is it grounds for termination? Not sure… The birthday party, again, not so appropriate even when the parents and students organized it for you (or didn’t they?) There are all these accusations from the comments, you made no mention of them in the interview. Certainly, the bias, prejudice, and even racism can be felt through some of the comments, yet you only posted one reply in defense of a child (or maybe not?)
    To assume that you can get away with political commentary and sensitive, complicated themes like the ones aforementioned is a little reckless, careless on your part based on your background, but I don’t think that termination was the answer.

    As for the little boy, were you aware that he had permission to walk out of the classroom when uncomfortable on account of his disability? Seems kind of odd of you not to mention this on the interview. In response to others on the post, it was the principal calling him a “huge trump supporter,” hopefully. His mother offered a rebuttal, while in her own view you were not fired due to race, it seems only fair that she would defend her son. Again, the issue of the appropriateness of the course content is relevant here. How detailed/ graphic were you when talking about rape? What exactly did you talk about that prompted you to bring up the Cheeto?

    I feel for you, I hope you can prove that the school was in fact racist. Unfortunately, your very virtues also made you a target: you had to have been pretty damn good and even better than your white colleagues, as it is true of us minorities, to have those quirky aspects of your teaching style overlooked. You saw it in the past two elections: a black man had to be impressive, well-rounded, top-notch educated, above-and-beyond kind, experienced, decent human being to have the most important job in the world, when the other only had to be who he is. It’s a harsh reality, an unfair one at that. You sound like a hell-raiser. I admire your courage and fortitude. Go kick ass elsewhere!

  137. TG
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Michigan is full of xenophobic bigots. It’s a fucking hell hole. I fear for my children’s safety every day living here with these backwards zealots.

  138. Dorian
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Frosted Flakes is actually Fruit Loops!

  139. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    F
    ROOT
    LO
    OPS

    (Isn’t it fun to play with words?)

  140. student of Renaissance School
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    As a student of Renaissance and have been with Ms.y in writing we all were crying when the principal said she fired her that same day we got to pet a dog and had a pizza party she was like oh I fierd everyone’s favorite teacher but here a dog a pizza forget that you think I’m the worst Ms.y always helps us improve are writing I have a scary writing that Ms.y shared that day of the speech now we don’t ever get to work on it because Ms.barrtel the old gym teacher is in MS.y classroom we miss Ms.y so every chance we get we bring her up or work in it in are own time we used to love to work on our writing so we don’t let them sit in the back of our doc we work on it or we talk about what we do next we all have that but sadly not every body works on there writing some do sit in the back we love you Ms.Y we will never forget how you inspired us to write you made it fun to learn you will always be my favorite teacher-Gabriella Almaraz student of Renaissance public school academy

  141. resident
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    For those parents complaining about a teacher talking to students “behind their backs” may I just say I came from a small town and we got to know our teachers and school faculty personally, everyone did. It builds a stronger bonded community or it can. A teacher that shows a personal interest in students lives and not just “here do this paper, take this test, now go home” mentality is a good teacher that cares.

  142. YON
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    She probably should have stuck to the topic during her “talk”

    A Lesson in Horror from Brian Evenson
    Posted by Mika Yamamoto

    Brian Evenson’s new novella, The Warren, opens with a declaration of documentation:

    I shall begin this written record by reporting the substance of our last conversation—which was not only the last conversation I had with Horak but the last I had with anyone or ever expect to have.

    The most unusual word of the sentence, “substance,” is the tenth word out of twenty-six, and it comes right after the second most unusual word in the sentence, “reporting.” The sixteen words that follow “substance,” excluding a character name, are some of the most frequently used words in the English language. Most of them are widely used in primary school. In terms of density, the first ten words account for almost half of the letters in the sentence. The sentence is top-heavy—unbalanced.

    The sentence is unbalanced in other ways, too. All of the semantic tension is created in the last five words, “or ever expect to have.” These five words do all the work to reveal the uncanniness of the world we’re about to enter. At the very least, they reveal there is something gravely wrong in the world of the narrator who is to be our guide.

    This summer, Brian Evenson taught a horror writing workshop in Transylvania, and I was lucky enough to attend. One thing I learned is that a feeling of unbalance creates a sense of horror in the reader. In the first sentence of The Warren, the feeling of horror is intensified by layers of imbalance. There is physical imbalance, semantic imbalance, and finally, logical imbalance.

    This first sentence establishes a few facts. Two people had a conversation. These two people were the narrator and Horak. The conversation was important enough to record. Horak is no longer around. In fact, there is no one else around that the narrator will speak to. Most likely, there is no one else around at all. These “facts” raise some questions. Who is Horak? Who is the narrator? What is their relationship? Why did he use the word “substance”? Why is Horak gone? The plainness of “or ever expect to have” when disclosing information that is undeniably unusual creates an imbalance between the language and the content—an imbalance of logic.

    The story continues, “Perhaps the last conversation that any two humans will have, if he and I can be said to both qualify as human.” This sentence undermines several of the assumptions that were established in the first sentence. What makes this disquieting is the narrator’s uncertainty about his humanity. A character who does not know if he is human is much scarier than a character who knows he’s not.

    Evenson said that horror begins as a story that seems normal but then shifts to something weird. The narrator declaring to document the last conversation of his life is serious business but is still within the realm of normal. When the humanity of that narrator suddenly becomes questionable—even to himself—we enter the realm of the weird.

    The third sentence forces the reader to pause in this state of unease: “There is apparently some debate on that score.” This is where the story makes its promise: It will keep you up at night.

    As it turns out, the first sentence of The Warren is the last time the world of this novella feels normal. Every detail added to the story seems to solidify the narrative, only to further dissolve it.

    The first sentence of the second paragraph begins, “I did not know how to make the machine function properly.” The mention of a physical object is grounding, even if the narrator does not know how to make it work. However: “and did not know either how to shut it off—it was not me who suspended him within the machine in the first place.” If Horak is the one suspended in the machine, and if the narrator is not the one who suspended him, there must be another character—unless the narrator is lying.

    Evenson’s sentences are deliberately constructed to demolish security. When something is not right, but we can’t place a finger on what is wrong, it becomes uncanny. The Warren traps the reader in this uncanny place from the very beginning with no hope of reprieve.

    One of the central questions we discussed in the horror workshop was, “What makes horror, horror?” This is a hard question to answer because—as Evenson explained to us—horror is the only genre that doesn’t have a recognizable trait. Romance has love and sex. Science fiction has fictional technology. Fantasy has a world full of made-up creatures. What do all horror stories share? Yet it’s clear when something is horror. The breathing stops. The hair stands. Fingernails get chewed.

    In workshop, Evenson gave us some advice. One, Show you are a good dancer early on. In other words, moments of misdirection require trust in the author, so establish your authority early on. In The Warren, Evenson does this with his opening sentence. Another piece of advice was, Don’t promise anything you aren’t going to give a reader. Evenson promises early in The Warren to make the reader feel unhinged, unable to discern what is “reality” or “humanity.” He delivers on this promise. Which brings us to his third piece of advice: Good fiction is like a virus. It changes us and the way we view the world.

    Kafka demonstrated long ago with “Metamorphosis” that blood and gore are not necessary for horror. Evenson demonstrates in The Warren that even if there is blood and gore, it may not necessarily be the source of the horror.

    Mika Yamamoto‘s work has been published in ESME.com, Noon, Rumpus.com, Writer’s Chronicle, and others. She currently resides in Michigan with her resilient succulent.

  143. YON
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Maybe she should have spoken about this…written by Mika Yamamoto. This was her topic that day.

    A Lesson in Horror from Brian Evenson
    Posted by Mika Yamamoto

    Brian Evenson’s new novella, The Warren, opens with a declaration of documentation:

    I shall begin this written record by reporting the substance of our last conversation—which was not only the last conversation I had with Horak but the last I had with anyone or ever expect to have.

    The most unusual word of the sentence, “substance,” is the tenth word out of twenty-six, and it comes right after the second most unusual word in the sentence, “reporting.” The sixteen words that follow “substance,” excluding a character name, are some of the most frequently used words in the English language. Most of them are widely used in primary school. In terms of density, the first ten words account for almost half of the letters in the sentence. The sentence is top-heavy—unbalanced.

    The sentence is unbalanced in other ways, too. All of the semantic tension is created in the last five words, “or ever expect to have.” These five words do all the work to reveal the uncanniness of the world we’re about to enter. At the very least, they reveal there is something gravely wrong in the world of the narrator who is to be our guide.

    This summer, Brian Evenson taught a horror writing workshop in Transylvania, and I was lucky enough to attend. One thing I learned is that a feeling of unbalance creates a sense of horror in the reader. In the first sentence of The Warren, the feeling of horror is intensified by layers of imbalance. There is physical imbalance, semantic imbalance, and finally, logical imbalance.

    This first sentence establishes a few facts. Two people had a conversation. These two people were the narrator and Horak. The conversation was important enough to record. Horak is no longer around. In fact, there is no one else around that the narrator will speak to. Most likely, there is no one else around at all. These “facts” raise some questions. Who is Horak? Who is the narrator? What is their relationship? Why did he use the word “substance”? Why is Horak gone? The plainness of “or ever expect to have” when disclosing information that is undeniably unusual creates an imbalance between the language and the content—an imbalance of logic.

    The story continues, “Perhaps the last conversation that any two humans will have, if he and I can be said to both qualify as human.” This sentence undermines several of the assumptions that were established in the first sentence. What makes this disquieting is the narrator’s uncertainty about his humanity. A character who does not know if he is human is much scarier than a character who knows he’s not.

    Evenson said that horror begins as a story that seems normal but then shifts to something weird. The narrator declaring to document the last conversation of his life is serious business but is still within the realm of normal. When the humanity of that narrator suddenly becomes questionable—even to himself—we enter the realm of the weird.

    The third sentence forces the reader to pause in this state of unease: “There is apparently some debate on that score.” This is where the story makes its promise: It will keep you up at night.

    As it turns out, the first sentence of The Warren is the last time the world of this novella feels normal. Every detail added to the story seems to solidify the narrative, only to further dissolve it.

    The first sentence of the second paragraph begins, “I did not know how to make the machine function properly.” The mention of a physical object is grounding, even if the narrator does not know how to make it work. However: “and did not know either how to shut it off—it was not me who suspended him within the machine in the first place.” If Horak is the one suspended in the machine, and if the narrator is not the one who suspended him, there must be another character—unless the narrator is lying.

    Evenson’s sentences are deliberately constructed to demolish security. When something is not right, but we can’t place a finger on what is wrong, it becomes uncanny. The Warren traps the reader in this uncanny place from the very beginning with no hope of reprieve.

    One of the central questions we discussed in the horror workshop was, “What makes horror, horror?” This is a hard question to answer because—as Evenson explained to us—horror is the only genre that doesn’t have a recognizable trait. Romance has love and sex. Science fiction has fictional technology. Fantasy has a world full of made-up creatures. What do all horror stories share? Yet it’s clear when something is horror. The breathing stops. The hair stands. Fingernails get chewed.

    In workshop, Evenson gave us some advice. One, Show you are a good dancer early on. In other words, moments of misdirection require trust in the author, so establish your authority early on. In The Warren, Evenson does this with his opening sentence. Another piece of advice was, Don’t promise anything you aren’t going to give a reader. Evenson promises early in The Warren to make the reader feel unhinged, unable to discern what is “reality” or “humanity.” He delivers on this promise. Which brings us to his third piece of advice: Good fiction is like a virus. It changes us and the way we view the world.

    Kafka demonstrated long ago with “Metamorphosis” that blood and gore are not necessary for horror. Evenson demonstrates in The Warren that even if there is blood and gore, it may not necessarily be the source of the horror.

    Mika Yamamoto‘s work has been published in ESME.com, Noon, Rumpus.com, Writer’s Chronicle, and others. She currently resides in Michigan with her resilient succulent.

  144. Richard Rabinowitz
    Posted April 13, 2017 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Not the first time someone named Yamamoto had a bit of trouble over something that occurred on a December 7.

  145. Kathleen Balma
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Dear “More to the story,”

    If you doubt my identity, a quick Google search should satisfy, and while it is always a calculated risk to leave a comment on a controversial discussion board with no protective disguise, there is a foul smell of bullying in the air here, and I do not tolerate bullying, online or in person.

    So: while I might have been inclined to give you and others the benefit of the doubt that there are, indeed, legitimate reasons for your use of pseudonyms here, your comments on this particular board are so vitriolic, slanderous, and just plain mean-spirited that you actually undermine your own arguments, cast doubt on your own claims and allegations, and generally come across as hyperbolic and hypocritical.

    I did initially wonder if there was more to the story. I wondered, too, if Mika might have behaved injudiciously or even lost her mind completely, but all the disguised commenters here make it clear who the real aggressors are. Given the toxicity of yours and others’ comments alone, a truly hostile, aggressive teacher might be the only kind who could actually survive in this particular learning community. Mika Yamamoto probably never had a chance. Here’s hoping the next teacher has all the same values as Ms. Yamamoto, but thicker skin and more political savvy. This is one tough mob.

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  1. By Read These Blogs – Marcus M. Wise on February 19, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    […] * *5th grade charter school teacher Mika Yamamoto, fired from Michigan’s Renaissance Public Schoo…: In a seriously screwed up sequence of events, 5th grade teacher Mika Yamamoto was asked to speak […]

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