DRACUT -- Robert Moulton's passion for Bob Dylan may wind up costing him his teaching job.
The 17-year Dracut High School English teacher was suspended with pay by Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone on Wednesday, as Stone ponders a recommendation by DHS principal Richard Manley that Moulton be fired from his $75,000-a-year position for "conduct unbecoming a teacher, and insubordination."
Stone refused to comment on Moulton's suspension, terming it a "personnel matter."
On Wednesday, Moulton met with a Sun reporter near his home in Milford, N.H., to tell his side of the story.
He said he was suspended for refusing to obey Manley's order to submit a week in advance a detailed, five-day lesson plan on what Moulton intended to teach to his 147 junior- and senior-class students.
Moulton said Manley imposed the requirement on him at the end of the 2012-13 school year. He said it came in response to a complaint filed in April by a special-education paraprofessional who said Moulton had read aloud to students from his short story, "Song To Bob (Dylan)," which contains profanity.
"I'm a teacher but I'm also a writer, and I wrote a short story which is cutting-edge. There is vulgarity. There is profanity," said Moulton of "Song To Bob."
Moulton said he previously read the short story to seniors who are Advanced Placement students. However, in April, on the day Bob Dylan was playing in Lowell, he said students in a different class requested that he read it to them also.
"At first, I told them, 'Guys, it's not appropriate for school,' but they kept egging me on and even the para asked me to read it to them," Moulton said.
"So I read it in class, and even had students take part in the section of the story that has dialogue," recalled Moulton. "And when it was done, the students cheered. They clapped. They loved it. They were on the edge of their seats. It was an awesome feeling. I was so happy."
Moulton said soon thereafter the complaint was filed with Manley. Moulton said he met with the principal and admitted to reading the story. "As a result, I got suspended for seven days with pay while they looked into it," said Moulton.
Upon his return to work in May, Manley instructed Moulton to begin submitting lesson plans in advance. The teacher said he complied with "rough outlines" until the end of the school year in June.
During the past week, Moulton said Manley approached him again for the lesson plans.
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"He asks me, 'Are you going to follow the 'Comprehensive Improvement Plan' I laid out for you?' I said no. He said, 'Then you leave.' "
On Wednesday morning, Moulton said a constable delivered two letters to his Milford, N.H., home, one of them from Manley informing Moulton "of my intent to dismiss you from your employment as a teacher in the Dracut Public Schools, effective Oct. 21... subject to the review and approval of the superintendent" for "insubordination" in "your failure to comply with the Comprehensive Evaluation Plan developed for you on May 1, 2013."
An accompanying letter from Stone stated that Moulton had been "suspended with pay, effective immediately, and until further notice." Stone wrote, "The grounds for this suspension is conduct unbecoming a teacher and insubordination, which constitute good cause."
Moulton said he planned to request a meeting with Stone to plead his case for reinstatement.
As news of Moulton's suspension spread through the school last week, former and current students took to social media to voice outrage.
Moulton's student backers, many of whom tagged their Tweets "#RevoltinForMoulton," expressed admiration for the "passion" he brings to the classroom, and his signature "free writing" sessions in which Moulton encourages students to jot down personal observations in a private journal, "7-all-7," or seven minutes a day, seven days a week.
"Mr. Moulton was always telling us that as a whole, we can make a difference," posted Emily Kelliher, @Emily_Kelleher, on Twitter. "So how about we actually do something this time?"
Tweeted recent Dracut High grad Zoe Malliaros, @zozomal, "He's the best teacher I ever had at DHS. Talk about passion for what he does."
"I don't know the story, but from all of my experiences #RevoltinForMoulton is a great cause," posted DHS 2012 grad Joe Theall on Twitter. "The man is an inspiration."
Other Tweets included:
* Kendra Baril, @kaaybaril: "Brace yourselves. A student revolution is under way. #RevoltinForMoulton"
* Doofy Mane, @PatxDuFourx: "He is one of the deepest and realest teachers I have ever had in high school. In no way does he deserve this ..."
* Corey Giallongo, @cgiallongo_74: "The amount of passion I see about Moulton's suspension makes me kind of proud to live in this town right now #RevoltinForMoulton."
* Shan Campbell, @shannx94: "Best English teacher I've ever had hands down."
* Melissa Sauls, @melissasauls: "Students wore signs all day in school, 'The Time is Now,' his TM slogan, in support of this transformational teacher."
Moulton, a Methuen native, was hired as an English teacher at Dracut High in the fall of 1997 following his graduation from Rivier College. He served as head of the English Department for three years.
In 2011, Moulton was profiled in a Sun article on "Poetry in the Courtyard," an after-school club he founded in 2008.
In 2006, Moulton was nominated as a "Most Valuable Teacher" in a 400-word essay by one of his students, Caitlin Fisher. The Massachusetts Teachers Association, which sponsored the contest, awarded Moulton and Fisher a pair of Red Sox tickets as prize winners.
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'...AMBIGUITY IS THE SKY.'
More quotes, and back story on his suspension, from Dracut High English teacher Rob Moulton's one-on-one interview with the Sun's John Collins.
On plan to meet with Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone: "I requested a face-to-face meeting with him on the 7-day suspension I got last year, but we never did meet. I've said 'hi' to him. I like Steven Stone. He has started doing good things. He gave all the teachers a laptop, and it's been great. I've been using mine for everything - keeping notes; listening to the Tempest. I even wrote him a 'thank you' card for the laptop he gave me, and I can't send it now because it will look trite... I do, as of right now, have faith in Steven Stone. And I hope he does the right thing."
"I'm a teacher but I'm also a writer. I wrote a short story called 'Song to Bob (Dylan).' I've seen him perform live about 75 to 90 times in my life. Dylan's first writing album was a 'Song to Woody (Guthrie).' I took my short story directly to The New Yorker magazine. I went to their New York City office and knocked on the door and they let me in. I told them I have my story right here and that 'I'm ready to change the literary landscape of America. They shuffled me out the back, but my story did reach the desk of the editors. I have my rejection letter right here." (Shows hand-signed rejection note.) I read this story to my seniors, who are Advanced Placement students. 'Song to Bob' is intense. It's 10 pages, single-spaced. It probably took me 25 minutes to read aloud in class. It's cutting edge. There is vulgarity. There is profanity. It's visceral realism. Expressionism in the 21st century. Roberto Bolano was a wonderful writer who employed that style of writing. When you're reading it, you're feeling what you're reading. Bob Dylan has been my inspiration through life, he's been with me. It's an interesting piece. The New Yorker is filled with vulgarity and profanity, in context. I have not posted the story anywhere publicly. I'm still working on it."
"Writing guru Natalie Goldberg talks about free writing. I make it a cornerstone of what we do. Because so often students don't have enough practice writing. Without it, when you ask to submit an essay about what they think, they have no practice getting what's inside of them out. By keeping the journals, they do have that practice. Then, when you give them that assignment, 'What do you think Nathaniel Hawthorne meant there?' They can do it."
"No, I never read their 7-all-7 journals. I just check to see that they have written something. They write what's on their mind. It works. The students - 7 years, 10 years, 15 years later - they come back and keep journals they're affected people. This (suspension) is big because I think a lot of those students who are out there who I've had in the past are going to come together and really going to change the world here."
This actual (paper) license to teach, they don't even give them out anymore. Here's mine, that I went down to Boston and stood in line to get (shows laminated teacher's license.) They tell us we're going to a 'paper-less society,' and it's a shame. I don't even have textbooks for my students because of all the stuff that's going on in the school district with the budget, and (Manley) wants me to have five days of advanced plans? See what I'm saying? Please stress it's not only happening in Dracut but all over America. Our government shut down, for crying out loud. There's all this bureaucratic b.s. that's getting in the way of real work being done by real Americans. It's about people getting into positions of power that shouldn't be there.
"I don't want you to use (the paraprofessional classroom assistant's) name in the article. Peace, always peace. She was just reacting.
"But I will say (Richard) Manley needs to go. I don't see me going back (to Dracut High School) while he's there. Are you familiar with the Peanuts cartoons by Charles Schulz? We have this guy in a position of power, who has no idea about the students. 'Wah wah wah woh wah,' no idea."
"Seven all seven is my thing. Every able person on this planet should write for seven minutes, seven days a week. I've been doing this for 17 years with my students. It's that reflective part of us that we need. It tunes us in. We get to know who we are, trust who we are, and like who we are. Those are my three codes of behavior, from Socrates: 'Know thyself,' from Emerson, 'Trust thyself,' and from Bob Dylan, 'Dig yourself.'"
"This, right here, is my next step: Awareness. I get to teach film-in-literature this year. I love teaching, I love what I do. When I first went back to get my Master's degree in English, it was a call to me to teach. I look forward to go into work and teach every day."
"We live on a ball of irony. Earth's center is liquid iron, and when I think Earth, I think 'iron, watery.' And ambiguity is the sky."