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Philadelphia teacher suspended for distracting his students with pancakes

Kyle Byler, an eight-grade teacher at Hand Middle School in Lancaster, Philadelphia, was suspended without pay and warned that he may be fired for potentially distracting pupils while they took the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSAs).

Byler has since explained that he brought an electric griddle to school on the morning of April 10, and cooked each of them a whole-grain pancake to eat while they took the exams. While this was occurring, an assistant principal visited the classroom, questioning what exactly what was going on. Within 24 hours, he was called into a meeting with administrators, and suspended.

In an interview, the teacher explained he didn't break any rules and doesn't know what was wrong about his actions. "At no point was it any distraction for any of the students," Byler, who many consider the "eighth-grade dad" at the school, said. "They worked their butts off."

In fact, one student even said that the only real distraction during the examination was the assistant principal who entered the room. "The moment she walked in, everybody turned,” Alizea Rodriguez told LancasterOnline. "She was the distraction. Not pancakes. Not Byler."

However, there are some that say that the behavior was inappropriate regardless of what the students thought of the matter. School district officials dismissed the claim that he was to be fired earlier this week, and insisted that the matter would be dealt with in the right way.

"The personnel matter has been resolved with the employee, who is scheduled to return to work," School District of Lancaster officials said in a statement. The statement continued:

"Moreover, the Pennsylvania Department of Education strictly requires that teachers who proctor PSSA testing focus their full attention on monitoring students during the test. All teachers serving as PSSA test proctors receive specific training on testing protocol.

"Had permission been sought by a teacher to cook in the classroom during PSSA testing and serve food to the students, the response would have been that such activities would distract the teacher from the required duties as a test proctor."

A hundred or so concerned residents, parents and teachers, turned up to a Tuesday night school board meeting to show their support for the teacher, worrying that he would be fired and wanting to make it clear that they didn't believe the suspension was necessary. "It takes a village to raise children,” one mother told LancasterOnline. "He’s part of that village."

Students and teachers were not the only ones who came out to support Byler. As a thoughtful gift (and decent PR move) officials at Holiday Inn Express offered to give him and his students a one-touch pancake machine, like those found in their breakfast bars, as well as plenty of pancake batter.

"As a hotel brand that knows how important an energizing breakfast is to being ‘THE READIEST’ for the day ahead, Holiday Inn Express salutes Byler for taking the initiative and making pancakes for his students," said Lauren Schuster, manager of PR firm Weber Shandwick.

While being suspended was likely pretty worrying for the teacher, it looks like things have turned out to be okay. He still has his job, and clearly the support of his students. Or maybe they just want more free pancakes.