KOREATOWN (CBSLA.com) — A distinguished elementary school instructor is fighting to teach again.
Rafe Esquith was removed from the classroom at Hobart Elementary, an LAUSD school in Koreatown, after a fellow teacher complained about Esquith reciting a passage from Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." The book, of course, is a classic but often criticized mainly for continual use of the n-word. It is not clear what the complaint was officially.
High-profile attorney Mark Geragos is representing Esquith and on Thursday issued an ultimatum to the Los Angeles Unified School District: publicly apologize and let him get back to work or battle a lawsuit.
Geragos said Monday: "The state of California has thoroughly investigated and cleared Rafe, who is a nationally recognized and award-winning teacher. If LAUSD does not immediately reinstate Rafe and issue a public apology, we will file immediate legal action."
A district spokesperson would only say that Esquith is still on the payroll. He is left in what parents call "teacher jail."
CBS's Jeff Nguyen spoke to many parents Thursday hoping to get Esquith a get-out-of-jail-free card.
More than 50 parents and students met Nguyen in front of the school to show their support for the award-winning teacher.
Emanuel Cuapio, 11, says his beloved teacher was notably absent during graduation earlier this month.
"It was really hard graduating because we weren't with Rafe. ... We all grieved," Cuapio said.
A lawyer with Geragos' firm said the district hasn't been upfront about the suspension.
"No parent has complained. No student has complained about Rafe," said attorney Benjamin Meiselas.
Esquith started the Hobart Shakespeareans Foundation, which raises money for classroom materials and field trips, according to the Los Angeles Times. As far back as 2004, he was lauded for helping kids in the urban neighborhood develop an appreciation and love for literature and Shakespeare.
He's also written several books on teaching and received multiple awards for his work.
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