Dracut High students stage a sit-in at the school Tuesday to protest the firing of English teacher Robert Moulton.	COURTESY PHOTOSun staff photos can be
Dracut High students stage a sit-in at the school Tuesday to protest the firing of English teacher Robert Moulton. COURTESY PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.

DRACUT -- Two leaders among the 75 Dracut High seniors who staged a sit-in Tuesday morning to protest the firing of English teacher Rob Moulton vowed to keep up pressure on administrators until the popular 17-year educator is reinstated.

Moulton, 44, a former head of the school's English Department, was fired Monday from his $75,000-a-year job by Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone for "conduct unbecoming a teacher and insubordination," Moulton said.

In April, Moulton served a seven-day suspension for having read aloud to his students from "Song To Bob," a vulgarity-laden short story written by the Bob Dylan-obsessed teacher. After the new school year began, Moulton was told by Principal Richard Manley to submit a detailed, advance lesson plan that was not being required of other teachers.

Students rally for fired Dracut High English teacher Robert Moulton at the school Tuesday. The photo they’re holding shows a young Bob Dylan, the
Students rally for fired Dracut High English teacher Robert Moulton at the school Tuesday. The photo they're holding shows a young Bob Dylan, the subject of a profanity-laced short story that Moulton read aloud to his students last April. COURTESY PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.

Former and current Dracut High students responded to Moulton's Oct. 3 suspension by posting an online petition demanding his reinstatement. The petition has been signed by nearly 700 students, with most adding glowing testimonials describing the lasting impact he's had on their academic and professional careers.

In a video provided to The Sun from inside the school on Tuesday, several Dracut High students who participated in the sit-in, including seniors Keith Redican and Kiara Buchannan, said they were protesting what they view as an unjust punishment meted out to Moulton.

"The stuff he was reading -- we're 17 and 18 years old, it's not like we don't encounter worse (language) on a daily basis," said Buchannan. "Mr. Moulton didn't teach us just for a paycheck; he was there to educate and inspire. He definitely didn't deserve to lose his job."

Redican said "about 60 to 80" seniors gathered at first in the hallway outside Moulton's former classroom at the start of "long period" at 9:15 a.m. to stage a sit-in on Moulton's behalf. Within 10 minutes, Redican led a group of about 30 seniors inside the empty classroom where they continued the protest until the end of long period at 11:35.

Rob Moulton... told to file lesson plansSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.
Rob Moulton ... told to file lesson plans

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.

During the two hours that seniors occupied Moulton's classroom, Redican said he played Dylan songs through his phone over the room's audio system in honor of their teacher.

In the hallway outside the classroom, an assistant principal and a Dracut police officer, who were apparently attempting to defuse the protest, escorted any students who newly entered the hallway out of that wing of the building, not allowing them to return, Redican said. Also, seven students participating in the sit-in accepted an invitation from Manley to go to the principal's office to discuss the Moulton firing.

Redican said the school's varsity football coach, Jason Houston, appeared at the classroom door midway through the sit-in to personally escort "about six football players" from the protest, under the threat of having their "senior night" football game taken away from them if they didn't leave, Redican said.

Stone called the sit-in "one small issue in the midst of an otherwise regular high-school day."

"According to Mr. Manley, the students he met with were respectful. They understood, and were satisfied with the responses the principal gave them," said Stone, who spoke about the sit-in during a break in Tuesday night's selectmen's meeting at Harmony Hall. "Everything went back to normal today."

The students said Stone made a mistake in not giving Moulton an opportunity to meet with the superintendent at least once before he was terminated.

"Tomorrow there won't be another sit-in, but there will be a lot of talk about it and it's going to bring a lot of stress on Mr. Manley," said Redican. "That's what we're pressing for -- they should feel stress over this. It might be calmed down for a day or two, but we'll be right back to where we started in a week. Because we're not going to give up. I've talked to many students about this and they feel the same way."

"This definitely is not the end of us protesting and insisting that Mr. Moulton be given his rights back," added Buchannan. "They're doing more harm right now that he's out and half the senior class does not have an English teacher helping them prepare for college and their college essays."

In an online poll by The Sun Tuesday asking if Moulton should have been fired, 19 percent of 258 responders said yes and 81 percent said no, as of midnight.

Stone said a substitute English teacher has taken over Moulton's classes.

"There is a consistent substitute in place. We're always sensitive to that," Stone said. "We feel the angst about losing out on class time, but we have to let the process run its course."

Stone repeated that he could not comment on any of the specifics behind Moulton's termination.

"Our response has to stand in order to protect the privacy interests of everyone involved, and that includes Mr. Moulton," said Stone. "So we have to sit back and watch the legal process run, and do what we feel is appropriate."

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