A Palm Beach Lakes High School teacher fighting in court to prevent himself and several colleagues from losing their jobs was suspended from the school today after attempting to give students a final exam that his principal calls “wholly inappropriate.”
Malik Leigh, an attorney who teaches in the school’s law academy, proposed a final exam that asked students to decide whether Donald Trump’s election as president would leave them “screwed” or “screwed behind a really YUGE wall that Mexico pays for.”
Another question would have asked students whether the best technique for attorneys making an opening statement during a trial would be to wink at the judge, focus on the hottest juror, talk to jurors like friends or “treat them like the MORONS they are.”
Leigh’s suspension comes one day after he said he attempted to subpoena the school’s principal, Cheryl McKeever, to have her testify in an upcoming hearing about the school’s decision not to rehire him and several other teachers next year.
It’s the latest twist in a year of unusually public conflicts at the West Palm Beach school.
Last week, Leigh asked a judge to block McKeever from getting rid of him and several other teachers when classes end next month. The decision not to rehire several teachers, Leigh alleged in a court motion, was an attempt to “retaliate, harass, humiliate and intimidate teachers.”
This morning, the school district ordered Leigh not to return to Palm Beach Lakes High and to remain on assignment at his residence “pending the outcome of an investigation.”
In a letter, McKeever called the proposed final exam “wholly inappropriate for the Law Academy class.”
“Specifically, the exam materials contain inaccurate content, irrelevant material, unprofessional use of language, inappropriate use of language, and contain content outside of and not consistent with the curriculum for the Law Academy,” McKeever wrote to Leigh.
In an interview, Leigh called the suspension an attempt to silence him as he attempts to defend teachers he said were losing their jobs for what he called largely political reasons.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the exam,” he said today. “They’re just grasping at straws at this point.”
In the motion he filed last week, Leigh said that the teachers losing their jobs include ones who reported that they were forced by an assistant principal to change grades, reported paraprofessionals for abusing special-needs children, or who merely “have been seen speaking with those teachers” who have.
And he defended his unorthodox exam questions, which he submitted to school administrators on Tuesday, saying that many of them were intended as jokes and reflected topics discussed in class.
“I don’t see why that would be offensive,” he said. “They all tie into the classroom discussion.”
Regarding the question about Trump’s candidacy, he said the students would realize that it was an attempt at humor, since the only possible answers were that students would be “screwed” if he was elected.
“I’m not pushing a political agenda,” he said. “To me, it was a funny question.”
He said the same goes for the question about jurors, which he said address widely held perceptions about typical jurors’ intelligence levels.
“Everyone will tell you most jurors are nimrods,” he said.
Leigh pointed out that students never received the exam and said that many of the questions were simply culled from tests he had given students earlier in the year.
He said he hadn’t been reprimanded before his suspension and that his overall teaching rating was high.
His removal, he said, means his students will be stuck with a substitute teacher for the rest of the year, a situation that would ultimately affect their ability to learn and have their end-of-year projects accurately assessed.
“I kind of have to draw the line with them messing with the kids,” he said. “You are creating the conditions that are going to screw up the kids’ grades.”