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Famous Teacher Suspended For Reading Mark Twain, Says Lawyer

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A fifth grade teacher who is internationally-known for his methods and best-selling books was suspended for reading Mark Twain, says his lawyer.

Rafe Esquith, who teaches fifth grade in Koreatown's Hobart Boulevard Elementary School, was suspended by LAUSD back in March and has yet to return to the classroom. Although the district has not said why they are investigating Esquith, his lawyer told KCAL 9 that another teacher filed a complaint after he read a passage from Mark Twain. He says that if Esquith is not brought back to work by the district, he will sue.

"The State of California has thoroughly investigated and cleared Rafe, who is a nationally recognized and award-winning teacher," said his attorney Mark Geragos. "If LAUSD does not immediately reinstate Rafe and issue a public apology, we will file immediate legal action."

Geragos says he gave LAUSD 10 days to respond to his ultimatum. Officials say they hope to "complete the investigation before school starts in August."

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According to the L.A. Times, Esquith read a segment from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to his class, which includes the following quote:

The duke and the king worked hard all day, setting up a stage and curtain and row of candles for footlights. At last, when he'd built up everyone's expectations high enough, he rolled up the curtain. The next minute the king came prancing out on all fours, naked. He was painted in rings and stripes all over in all sorts of colors and looked as splendid as a rainbow.

After the investigation was launched in March by the school district, Esquith has since been in what the union calls a "teacher jail" and awaiting the results of case.

"When you quote Mark Twain you go to teacher jail, your reputation is trampled on and ignorant bureaucrats assume the role of judge and jury in the face of a baseless allegation which has already been found meritless by the California Teacher Credentialing Committee," said Geragos.

His neighbor told KCAL that Esquith is "a very dedicated teacher" and was surprised about the suspension. One parent told the L.A. Times that she's unsure if she'll enroll her son at Hobart Boulevard Elementary if Esquith isn't allowed to return.

"I know so many of his fifth graders cried every night because they were graduating and they were going to have to do that without him," said Annie Han.

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Esquith, called "the world's most famous teacher" by the Washington Post, has written three best-selling books about teaching and is a critic of the overemphasis on standardized testing. His nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans, raises money for school materials and had to cancel all of their performances this year.