Holy out of control, Batman!

Michigan teacher must cover cost of substitute while on military duty

In possibly the worst-written newspaper (remember those?) story EVER, the Detroit Free Press has managed to piss just about everybody off over the case of Kenowa Hills Public School District teacher Barry Bernhardt. Bernhardt is a middle-school teacher and Navy Reservist who is currently serving his annual two week active duty stint in Italy.

Go read the story if you want, but I don’t really recommend it. When you’re done you are either going to be scratching your head and trying to figure out what the Hades has happened, or you are going to go through the roof over the injustice of it all. The story has been picked up across the nation, and tons of mail, email, and calls have blasted the district and the school superintendent.

The Free Press story gives the impression that not only does Bernhardt have to pay for a substitute teacher while he’s off serving his country, but that he will also have to pay several days worth of military pay to the school district when all is said and done.

Which is all true.

They just don’t make it clear that Bernhardt IS STILL BEING PAID HIS TEACHER’S SALARY while on active duty.

How DARE they?!? Why would the district do such a dastardly thing?

Well, it’s so Bernhardt can make more money.

Yes, folks, the school district doesn’t have a Reserve/Guard policy, so they made one up on the spot. They decided to continue paying him while he’s off on active duty, but he will have to cover for the district’s expenses. In the end he comes out ahead. He knew this and signed off on the deal before he left.

The standard practice at most places is for an employee to be given UNPAID leave when activated, and the employee keeps his military pay. That’s how it is where I work. Sometimes the employer will make up the difference if the military pay is less than the employee’s regular pay. But they aren’t required to.

In case you’re unaware, most military positions are even more underpaid than most teaching positions.

Bernhardt comes out ahead. A number of Free Republic threads (this one among them) have people up in arms about the mistreatment of one of our Reservists. The rage is misdirected.

The Free Press story even calls Bernhardt a National Guardsman, not a Naval Reservist. Besides that, I think all the facts are actually in the story. You just can’t make heads or tails out of them.

Folks, I’m from Michigan, but WEST Michigan. I just want to make that clear.

Here’s an MLive story from the Grand Rapids Press that is a little more straightforward.

It seems that all the misdirected outrage has the school district considering a standard policy that is in line with other places. Which means that Bernhardt will make about $573 less next time he’s activated.

Too bad that the Detroit Free Press didn’t print a better story. And too bad that so many well-meaning but over-zealous folks made a big stink before getting the facts straight.

Thanks to the reader who tipped me off about this story. If only MO had been alerted sooner, maybe all of this ugliness could have been avoided.