Seattle School Board dismisses Garfield High School teacher Sally Pangborn on May 11, 1970.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • Essay 2432

On May 11, 1970, Garfield High School teacher Sally Pangborn (b. 1915) is fired for "substandard teaching" and "failure to maintain good order and discipline" (The Seattle Times). Pangborn taught language arts and the world history using "non-authoritarian, student-centered discussions" (Seattle) at the school in which 70 percent of the students were African American.

At the first public hearing in 15 years over the dismissal of a teacher, the school board attorney stated, "It is going to be shown that this teacher feeds pabulum ideas in a willy-nilly manner." Her classroom featured anti-Vietnam War posters. Pangborn testified in her defense, "I never try to tell my students what to do, because I resent it so much when people tell me what to do ... I tell them I'm there for their growth and I want to water them, and they'll grow into beautiful flowers, all different ..." (Seattle).

Pangborn filed suit to overturn her dismissal. On January 8, 1973, a judge found that the school board had not met its obligations under law to establish teacher performance standards. Pangborn was reinstated and awarded back pay, costs, and damages.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 286; The Seattle Times, January 9, 1973, p. C-8; Elin Szegda, "The Prime of Mrs. Sally Pangborn," Seattle, Vol, 7, No. 75 (June 1970), pp. 16-24.

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